Thursday, February 19, 2009

What notorious poetry figure said this about the "audience" for poetry?

Answer... nope, not the Can Poetry Matter guy, but Jack Spicer:

"Poetry demands a human voice to sing it and demands an audience to hear it. Without these it is naked, pure, and incomplete - a bore.

If plays were only printed and never acted, who would read them? If songs were only printed on song sheets, who would read them? It would be like playing a football game on paper. Do you wonder where the audience is?

If affects the nature of the poetry too. Thee was a time in the middle ages when music was mainly written and not sung. It was a time when crab canons were composed, complicated puzzles made of notes that no ear would think of hearing. Poetry, when it is removed from a living audience, loses its living form, becomes puzzling. It becomes blind like the salamanders that live in dark caves. It atrophies.

Orpheus was a singer. The proudest boast made about Orpheus was not that his poems were beautiful in and of themselves. There were no New Critics then. The proudest boast was that he, the singer with the songs, moved impossible audiences - trees, wild animals, the king of hell himself.

Today we are not singers. We would rather publish poetry in a little magazine than read it in a large hall. If we do read in a hall, we do not take the most elementary steps to make our poetry vivid and entertaining. We are not singers. We do not use our bodies. We recite from a printed page."


J.H. Stotts said...
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Shameless Hussy said...

Ah, well. My students memorize poems and this semester they are learning to read them three different ways.

It's a lot of fun and even if they decide to be straight readers of the work, those readings will no doubt have some depth to them.

No one ever discussed reading with me when I was a young poet, sadly. And it was traumatizing as I recall because I had no clue how to do it, and found it very stressful. I don't think that was intentional on the part of my instructors and/or peers though there are those who scorn any attention to reading, as if it sullies the notion that the single poem on the single page is at the top of a hierarchical poetic model.

Must get that new Spicer.

baj salchert said...

When I'm alone I sometimes read a poem by me in a quirky manner.

mgushuedc said...

Man, I read this just a month ago--working my way through the collected lectures. If didn't already know, I'd have said Robert "Bodily Art" Pinsky. It really puts the "aud" in audience.

Reading aloud: Anthony Hecht was able to recite Lycidas from memory--in W. C. Fields voice.