It is interesting to be blogging poetry. The ancient meets with the new. It is ironic in that it is least expected that the two unrelated forms have so much in common: both are public forms originally meant to be shared on a public platform, they meant to be heard out loud for everyone to hear. In the textbook (Introduction to Poetry, 7th edition, Kennedy), there’s an excerpt called “Reading and Hearing Poems Aloud”. It talks about the discipline of publicly reading poems, how to practice, why the reader should read as much for context as for sound and rhyme. “Understand the poem,” says the excerpt. “and do not become mechanical in reading it, read it with meaning. Listen to recordings of how the poets read their own work.” And practice before you preach.
Poetry has been said aloud for centuries whether it has been recordings of poets like Dylan Thomas or Robert Frost (whose voices you could probably now find online through YouTube), or Emily Dickinson’s (and other’s) poems made into songs, Shakespeare’s plays, or Oedipus Rex on ancient Greek stages, or Beowulf or the Tain which were ancient epics once spoken in Long Halls during frigid winters past. There’s nothing new about the public display of poetry.
So, it seems appropriate that I post this poem meant to be spoken aloud in order to be understood. It even prescribes doing so in the title.
But while you’re at it why not test out the poet’s premise; pick up a copy of Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso and give them a try. Do what you will need to do in order to regularly read a poem out loud: read the paragraph for meaning, understand what it is telling you, understand why it is telling you what it is telling you, then slowly, like a child learning to talk, say it out loud and listen for the sounds, for the rhymes, for the alliteration and consonance, then go faster and give it rhythm. Did you feel the the muscles and veins rippling? Did they do so in widening and rising circles? Did it feel like a bird taking flight from your tongue? What else did it feel like? How do you describe it? How would you read it to a friend? How would you read it to an audience?
Saying Dante Aloud
by James Wright
You can feel the muscles and veins rippling in widening and rising
circles, like a bird in flight under your tongue.