28 February on Blog, Poetry: Serious. Not That Serious. Tags: Lucy Hitz
8 Great Poetry Readings
In Pinsky’s famous book The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide, he declares that poetry “is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art. The medium of poetry is the human body: the column of air inside the chest, shaped into signifying sounds in the larynx and the mouth. In this sense, poetry is as physical or bodily an art as dancing." Another way of saying this is, poetry should be read out loud. With this I certainly agree (I know I get more out of reading a poem when I speak it, and that my poems are better when I use the technique of reading them aloud while revising). Thinking of poetry as a bodily music is at the very least a useful outlook to consider, especially for those who don’t spend much time with poetry.
Keeping this physicality in mind, and the performance aspect of poetry, I’d like to suggest 8 poetry audio/video clips sure to knock your socks off:
- Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” A perseverance song, told with grace and power and soul (not surprising at all if you know Clifton).
- John Berryman, “There Sat Down, Once, a Thing on Henry’s Heart” A very famous Berryman video recording of the poet reading his very famous poem. The man might be a bit intoxicated, but his gin-soaked drawl and extra-long pauses make this rendition of the poem even more gut-wrenching than it normally is.
- Adrienne Rich, a recording from Letters to a Young Poet True paydirt/wisdom at the end. These are lines I’ve considered getting tattooed on my body.
- Ted Berrigan, “Things To Do In New York City” A heartbreaking rendition. Not your mama’s to-do list. Scroll down to find the proper link.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Love is Not All” An old-fashioned reading style with language and message that still hold up. This lady knew a lot—the good, the bad, the ugly, the honest, the fleeting—when it came to love.
- Gerald Stern, “Waving Goodbye” About sending his daughter off to college. The poetry version of “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks. A wonderful composition of the complicated and visceral feelings a leavetaking such as this one elicits in a parent.
- Anne Sexton, “The Truth the Dead Know” Sexton’s heated yet chilled elegy for her parents, rife with her own fear of death and parallel denial of its existence (“In another country people die”).
- Heather McHugh, “What He Thought” In a conversational style, with self-deprecating humor, McHugh weaves a narrative about what we choose to say and what we choose to listen to. And it takes place in Roma (my former home-a)!