3. Poet's Voice

February 17, 2017

We began our discovery by reading about and discussing the phenomenon of Poet’s Voice, characterized by affected lilting and

intoning that's disconnected from poetry's rhythm and musicality. Whatever its origin and evolution, it's a pervasive presentation style. I liked this article in Mashable, complete with recorded examples, a linguist's theory for its possible use and encouragement to poets to listen closely to their own practice recitations in case they're unconsciously perpetuating the style, apparently without question.

 

Matt raised objections to Poet's Voice on the audience's behalf as it distorts an audience's experience of poetry by distracting attention from the poetry itself and drawing focus instead to the speaker. 

 

I object because Poet's Voice deprives listeners of experiencing poetry's acoustic power and it erodes the organic relationship between the sonic elements and the sense that is unique to each poem, that is a poem's voice. The presenter's voice needs to be in service to the poem's voice.

 

Despite Seamus Heaney once describing Yeats' delivery as an "elevated chant," W. B. Yeats' 1932 recording of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" is an example not only of a poem with an authentic voice, but of a presentation that does the poem's voice justice. Yeats' intoning here is often mistaken for Poet's Voice so it's a great example to study to appreciate the difference.

 

Yeats defended his recitation style saying, “I’m going to read my poems with great emphasis upon their rhythm and that may seem strange if you are not used to it. I remember the great English poet William Morris coming in a rage out of some lecture hall, where somebody had recited a passage out of his Sigurd the Volsung. ‘It gave me a devil of a lot of trouble,’ said Morris, ‘to get that thing into verse!’ It gave me a devil of a lot of trouble to get into verse the poems that I am going to read, and that is why I will not read them as if they were prose.” 

 

Since all the elements of the poem itself suggest it, because the bardic tradition was part of Yeats' heritage, and given his long absence from and deep connection to Innisfree, I experience the way Yeats wrote and read his poem as an incantation.

 

How does presentation of a poem's voice apply contemporarily?

 

Here, at 15:00, Robert Pinsky reminds us culturally of our own aural/oral roots in his 1998 introduction to presenting Czeslaw Milosz's poem, "Incantation." Pinsky said, "An incantation is something you say to make something happen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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