Monday, October 25, 2004

Performing Poetry

I like the poem I put up, because I designed it to be read aloud. (It made its debut at the Medusa Bar-- a cool underground bar in Philly-- last Saturday, the first reading I've done in some time.) There are moments in it (in quotes for instance) which allow me to let out my voice.

The funny thing about a poem is that not until you read it in public do you become fully aware of each place which demands emphasis. Certain arrangements of words can naturally build to a high point. In this case, "rhythmn," and also "this" in the last line, had me increase my volume.

This poem, unlike a few I've written, allows proper room to be dramatic; i.e., to vary the volume of my voice, and so hold the interest of the audience. (Also moments to physically move-- such as the "knife" phrase, which can be acted out for added emphasis!)

Most poetry today is written to be read in a monotone. At least, that's how most poetry today is performed! Arguments can be made about poetry written for the ear or the eye. Most academic poetry is written for neither.

The poems of Louise Gluck

Take David Berman. First, his poetry is merely cute. I've been unable to find much in it-- momentum, strength, or rhythmn-- which would lend itself to an exciting reading. Second, one has to merely listen to his wimpy ultra-laid back band, each song performed in a colorless monotone, to understand that the guy must be awful reading poetry. This is why I was eager to have him read against an underground poet, after Berman had foolishly challenged us. (Local Philly undergrounder Michael Grover had volunteered for the Read-Off; a poet with a strong voice and a good sense of the dramatic. Unfortunately, Berman backed off.)

For me, the pleasure of listening to poetry or prose performed is hearing a high caliber voice which uses words as tools to play with the audience. Few know how to do this. Most writers who try to read probably shouldn't, as 1.) their work is dry and lifeless; 2.) they don't have a clue what to do with their words regardless.

These are lost questions. But think back to the revolutionary poets Marlowe and Shakespeare, who designed plays around poetry, and so brought the world amazing language and drama: amazing art.


Anonymous said...

In my country, poem is read by men in halter top.
State Approved.

Wenclas, hear ghost of Allen Ginsberg read poem Hum-Bom, he finish in '91, on Saddam. Is best reading ever, of poem, on tape. Then Ginsberg sing poem with queer lover, sound like Bob Dylan taking it, in ass. Poem of Blake, his Songs. What is this, Performance? Why of Blake, of Dylan, from Ginsberg? Is this of value from old poet? Evil Journalista wish very much to talk with Ginsberg, ask question. Instead, he ask Wenclas, on Demi-Puppet.

Ask question, use brain.
Little lamb i'll tell thee.

Evil Journalista is unsure of poem reading. Is good? Is bad? Evil Journalista think many things on Performance Poem. Unsure of verdict. Will ponder, at night in lonely room, with alcohol. Wenclas say, "Is best way, read poem, show Voice." Evil Journalista not seek Voice, in poem. Seek words, in poem. Seek Voice in American Idol, on FOX.

Carl Sandburg read poems, on tape. Carl Sandburg say, " sleep in house 6 feet long. dream of rail....roads." As young man, Evil Journalista listen to these poem, and fall asleep, from Carl Sandburg. Still, to this day, he remembers Huntington poem, with word "Blithery," at end.

King said...

An ignorant comment, in that it ignores the history of poetry-- that it began as an oral medium. Homer's poems were supposedly read aloud for centuries before they were written down. Shakespeare's writing is much, much better when listened to, than read. Yes, the words are important. The best poetry uses words to create meaning and art-- which is what I said in my post.

Your statement about Sandburg makes my point. Poetry is overlooked in this society because so many who try reading it aloud, shouldn't. But thank you for your response. I's always a pleasure hearing from actual demi-puppets.

Anonymous said...

Bah, what is this nonsense, "Oral Medium?"
Oral Medium begin with illiterate audience, of tribe, of Shakespeare. As you like it. Vaudeville minus-1.

That Shakespeare great writer, was accident. Globe Theatre audience want entertainment, not great writer. Same is true today, would seem.

Word on Page is evolution. Word on Demi-Puppet is evolution still, unless Wenclas beat drum to communicate with Ukraine, while shouting poetry at Snakehead Bar.

Painted face and dramatic Voice, Performer. Who is Acting like Demi-Puppet now? Who is shouting on command to impress his comrades, at "cool underground bar?"

Evil Journalista has no use for such things. Is sidetrack, for literature. Is novelty, like finding Sandburg tape, at library.

Sandburg book is much better.

Anonymous said...

At least you try to entertain, demi-puppet, which is in your favor. Why don't you cut your strings, leave that stuffy office and join the rebellion? I'd bet you'd like to read yourself at the top of your lungs in a smoky underground cellar of a place.