Thomas Fallon wrote:
>>Most poets I've heard, including Seamus Heaney and Robert
Creeley, do not read well. I don't really care if they do, but
think they should educate themselves for their readers' sake.
You expect poor readers at open mikes, but not on the
Just some random thoughts in response:
The Reading Series at the school where I teach has brought a lot of poets to
my campus over the years, some nationally and internationally known, others
primarily local, from many different points along the poetry spectrum, and
most have not been the best readers of their own work. These readings have,
inevitably been boring, and often served to confuse the students I brought
with me to hear them because they, the students, couldn't figure out what
the big deal was. On the other hand, when the poet was a good reader, even
if the poetry was not so great, the students saw value in the poetry and in
having gone to the reading. That being said, I think it is a difficult thing
to read poetry out loud, your own or others, and to do it well.
A friend and I have an ongoing joke about a writer here in the States whose
poems read on the page, and sound when he reads them, more like stand-up
comedy--and tired, shallow 1950s, Jewish, psychoanalytically influenced,
stand-up shtick at that--than poetry, and yet he reads well in that vein and
people really like his work.
Another poet whose work I admire a lot reads her work as if it were all
dramatic monologue, and she is not a great actor; she overacts just about
every poem she reads--or at least she did on the one or two occasions I last
heard her, with the result that poems which are quite moving become
overly-sentimentalized and kind of embarrassing to listen to.
It's interesting to listen to spoken word artists and try to find where and
how the rhythm they read with is located in the language. This is not to
invalidate spoken-word poetries, but it's always been an interesting
question to me, one that I think is equally relevant to poets, and I am
thinking specifically of one poet, whose work is built on a very
plain-spoken almost prosaic language, that when he reads has a rhythm that
more resembles, to my ears anyway, a "you had to be there" story--one the
point of which is lost in the telling to people removed both in time and
place from the events being recounted--than a poem. Now maybe that "you had
to be there" element is part of this writer's poetic, but there is nothing
in his reading style--though I find it sometimes in the words on the
page--that offers the listener a critical distance from which to hear this
poetic at work.
Some poetry, I think, is meant to read on the page not listened to,
especially some of the avant-garde writing that I have seen lately. A friend
of mine is one such writer, and while I enjoy her work on the page, when she
reads, there is no way I can follow what she is up to and so I am left
enjoying individual lines, turns of phrase, images, whatever, some of which
are funny--and I enjoy the opportunity to laugh out loud at a poetry
reading; they are often such staid, deadly serious, humorless events--but
nothing coheres into a poem for me.
Like I said, just some random thoughts--