Doubletake

one-eyed hawk

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I wasn’t terribly keen on yesterday’s poem, but then I listened to this reading of it and almost started to like it. The recording was completely unsolicited, and is by someone who wishes to be identified only as “a nameless friend.” In response to my grumpy comments about the poem, A.N.F. wrote:

No, it’s not a perfect poem — for one thing, I thought the penultimate lines were amazing, but not the final one. And you probably overdid the repetitions just a bit.

But I like it, and I liked it even more as I read it aloud. Praise Whomever for imperfect things.

12 Comments


  1. I had hoped to hear this voice.

    The poem leaps off the screen, read aloud. I like it so much this way.

    That’s it; you’ve pushed me over the precipice; I’m going to start recording my poems now. Or perhaps hoping that friends with dear voices will record them for me… :-)

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  2. I really enjoyed the poem yesterday. Today, I’m blown away by the reading of it – what a beautiful voice! what suppressed emotion! You are blessed, Dave, in many ways.

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  3. You are not it; it actually is you.
    –Ch’an Master Dongshan (807-869, c.e.)

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  4. This is lovely. But what a surprise! It’s very different from how I hear it in my head, which is much more matter-of -fact, almost harsh, and quizzical, with just a crack of emotion at the enormity of the central thought. I think I understand now what my uneasiness is about audio recordings of poetry, as opposed to live readings. There should not be just one – a poem can be read in many voices. This is lovely, though. I don’t care if it’s a perfect poem. I don’t think I’m interested in perfect poems, but in poems that sing and satisfy and reach in with a thin wire to touch something deep and leave a little shock.

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  5. Thank you, Jean – and everybody else who commented on this poem. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how blogging has changed my poetry practice. I used to polish incessantly, obsessively. Now I typically write poems in a few hours, post them, and move on — and I tend to share the feeling that imperfection is desirable in and of itself (the poem kind of hints at that, too, doesn’t it?). This one was unusual in that I wrote a first draft three days before posting. It probably wouldn’t kill me to sit on first drafts a little longer!

    Jean, I also appreciate your point about an audio recording pinning a poem down. I might quote you in a couple of months when I do a follow-up piece on poetry out loud for RWP.

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  6. Yes, like your fan I too would have left the poem’s final question unsaid, well, except of course that I’m not a poet at all. But the question does seem needed when reading aloud. Think about how repetitive Shakespeare can be when writing for performance, because it all has to make sense in the continuous split second of speaking. It was as a reader that I wished the question unsaid, but only because as a reader I experience the poem as an art object, a thing laid out on the page that I can inspect from different angles at will.

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  7. I hear you. That last line was an impulsive last-minute addition, prompted in part by my discomfort with poems that end in questions. The result is a poem that’s a bit more obvious than I prefer, either in my own work or in others’. But as you say, obviousness and repetition aren’t bad things if you don’t have the text in front of you. Ever buy a chapbook from a slam poet after a performance, take it home, read it the next day and wonder what the hell seemed so compelling about it? There’s a lot that doesn’t make the transition from voice to page.

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  8. Wow. As ever, behind in my blog reading, I hadn’t read your poem. So hearing it before reading means I had not preconceived notion of what it should sound like. I’m quite taken with it. I suppose the combination of the mellifluous voice and what’s provoked in the mind by the words themselves. Very nice.

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  9. Thanks. Interesting reaction – as all of these have been so far. Clearly, this topic of oral vs. printed (or virtual) renditions is even more nuanced than I had supposed. Me, I just like hearing my own words in a foreign accent: given the subject of the poem, that makes total sense.

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  10. Another here playing catch-up, coming to this by the audio first, the written version second. I like the poem, both ways, “very very much.” And I’d agree with others that visual and oral are different animals. Line breaks, for instance, are always interesting to hear (or not) in a reading.

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  11. I’m giggling at ‘foreign accent’, because of course this accent is less foreign to me than yours. I think it’s easy to forget on line how ‘foreign’ some of us are to each other, so voices are a good reminder of that too.

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  12. Hi MB – Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I’ve never gotten too hung up about how a poem looks on the page, in part becasue I do feel that the sound is more important than the appearance.

    Jean – That was one of the real pleasures of the last issue of qarrtsiluni, for me: hearing so many different varieties of English one after the other. (I hope yours will be one of them someday!)

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