Thursday, January 8, 2009

Poetry Reading

Returned from a reading of the Poet Laureate of Kansas,Denise Lowe. The poetry was wonderful.

Lowe's style in reading her poetry was a common one for poetry readings. Her style was somewhere between a flat chant and well, I'll soon post a video of one of the poems. Or part of it.

I've heard this style before. The first time I heard it was the first time I heard a recording of, I think, T.S. Eliot. Hey, give the memory a break, it was nearly forty years ago.

To the point, this is a common style for poets reading their own poetry. To my mind - and this is admittedly a biased mind, since I've been known to teach Oral Interpretation, and count as one of my most important graduate school courses The Oral Interpretation of Poetry - there is a better way to interpret one's own poetry.

I heard this style. Elizabeth Bishop, in a simple and un-histrionic style, interpreted her own poetry. This was also almost forty years ago, so the memory needs the same break I pleaded for above.

Bishop came onstage in a spangled gown and read her poetry, with an emphasis upon her South American poetry. Her reading of Manuelzina changed my views about poetry. I cannot, to this day, read that poem without tears.

So why do poets read their poems in this style - a style that seems to me to be just bad Oral Interp? Perhaps they want to allow the poem to stand on its own, without the benefit of theatricality.

Ya have to wonder, if the rhapsodes had done the same, would theatre ever have arisen in ancient Greece?

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