Wednesday, July 13, 2005

So we should have poetry karaoke, yes?

An odd thing, the last couple of nights: though I've sat down at my desk and scribbled a little bit, spent a little time reading, most of my writing time has turned into "sitting there reading poems aloud to the empty room" time. I've been reading my own poems aloud a bit, the newer ones, and I've been reading a bunch of poems from Cocktails out loud and realizing how much better I get them when I do that (and so appreciating the precision and the ring of them as I read -- he does some nifty stuff with rhyme I almost overlooked on the page), and I've read a few others aloud as well. But this is part of writing practice, yes? I think it is. I think it counts.

I've got to figure out routines that work. I'm not doing so well at sitting down at my desk from 7 till 10 every evening, which is what I'd like to do; I've gotten a late start the last couple evenings but have still made myself sit down and do a little work just to stay in touch with it. Weekday evenings, after a full day of work, just aren't the best time for me to do a lot of actual writing as a general rule, and if I sit down in hopes of feeling really productive and draft-y I usually get disappointed. (And I am SOOOOO not a morning person.) So I think I will try to spend evenings journaling and reading and doing exercises -- writing imitations, trying forms, stuff like that. Fiddling, tuning the instrument. Also reading aloud for a few minutes every evening, because that feels useful and necessary right now. Then, weekends, I will be revved up and ready to do some serious writing.

My poetry group meets tomorrow night, and I've promised that instead of bringing a poem to be workshopped, I'm going to take the time we'd normally spend on one of my poems & tell them all about Provincetown. I'm going to read them a few D.A. Powell poems (I think I'll read them the "dogs do love trash" one even though they will be scandalized *grin*) and then I'm going to pick out a few things from my notes to talk about and then I'm going to read them two of the new poems I wrote, talking about how I drafted & revised them. I'm really pleased with how I handled the revision process on "Fog, Provincetown" and "Hold" & talking about that will give them some of what I learned during the week.

Thinking of my friend S. who is in Provincetown this week, in Martin Espada's workshop. I envy her. When she gets back we're going to get together and compare notes.

Got a really nice second-hand compliment today on my poem in the current Rattle. It's little things like that sometimes that keep you going. I'm happy just to know someone actually reads my crap; to get a compliment from a stranger is, as they say, gravy. I write for myself, yes, for that feeling I had walking down Pearl Street with my arms open whispering yes ... that's why I do it. But to be listened to, to be read, to be heard, to have someone whose work I respect come up to me the morning after a reading and tell me I inhabited my poem as I read it, to know by the response someone else gives me that my words are ringing true -- that's sweet, sweet, sweet. (Reading a poem to someone is like sex: sometimes you know when you're doing it right just by listening to how their breathing changes.)

Marge Piercy was the first poet I really enjoyed reading aloud, and then Plath, of course: "Stasis in darkness..." I still get out Hopkins sometimes for the sheer pleasure of his words on my tongue. I'm not a "performance poet" by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes I know when I've gotten it right by how it rings in an empty room -- or a room that isn't empty. I know by listening to how the poem's breathing changes. In Powell's workshop we talked about reading your poems in the bathroom for the acoustics. So now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go talk to myself for a while like the crazy woman I know I am.


Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
& yes
on the last

& Martin Espada? I'm envious—sigh, another reason to go back to P-Town yes yes



~off to hot Texas
p.s. I'd love to see another version of that poem, loved the constellation form suggestion

A. D. said...

OOOh. I need to find a bookstore that carries Rattle. . .

jenni said...

i'd say reading aloud is definately a part of writing--learning how things sound, how words bump into one another.

i usually write drafts at night and revise in the morning. i dunno why i work like that, but i like it. something about the long sleep with the raw draft still on my mind, and it gives me something to look forward to in the morning.

ordered that rattle issue, hasn't came yet. maybe nice someone wrote to you though, next time i read a poem i really like in a journal i'm going to write the poet and tell them.

Patty said...

"Reading a poem to someone is like sex: sometimes you know when you're doing it right just by listening to how their breathing changes."


Emily Lloyd said...

Today, the sentence Patty just quoted is enough to make me weep...(Piercy: Tigers in a closet, we learn gentleness...) But yes, Powell's poems cry out to be read aloud, don't they? And "poetry karaoke"--at the local poetry/music open mic the singers are always doing covers, so when I read, I claim the right to do at least one "cover" too (that's what I call 'em). Finally: Marge Piercy: when my sister was trying out for community theatre and asked me to find her some monologues, I gave her some Piercy poems (I gave her boyfriend an Atwood--I'm fairly certain they were the only try-outs with poems as monologues. He made it, she didn't. He played Dracula.)

A. D. said...

What issue number is your Rattle?

Drop me an email if you can. . .