Fay Zwicky, one of the poets missing from the Gray and Lehmann anthology, has turned up on the Poetry Foundation podcast with ‘The Age of Aquarius’. Among other things, I loved this:
between the holocaust and the atom bomb
who are these people?
Between the deep and shallow end,
never say thank you or good morning.
Ooh, that’s me!
You can read it or listen to it here
The Poetry Off the Shelf podcast for 13 December is a lovely interview with US poet Dan Beachy-Quick about memorising poetry, ‘Inscribe the poem on yourself’. I listened to it when I had just finished my first stab at memorising Stevie Smith’s ‘The Lads of the Village’ (of which more in a later post), and a lot of what was said on the podcast rang very true for me. Here are a couple of hastily transcribed highlights:
Something about the act of memorisation puts the poem inside me in such a way that I feel like when I do need to know what exactly it is in the poem that draws me so much it will be there as a kind of constant resource that I can call upon whenever I want to or when I need to.
And this on memorising poems using traditional forms:
When you go through the work of memorising a poem the metre of it or the rhyme of it or the formal pattern that it’s in ceases to just be a technology of the poem and you begin to see the real necessity that might underlie the choice of writing in a sonnet or the power of taking as a genuine concern the need to find a perfect rhyme or a slant rhyme, because those things too, metre and rhyme, are so absolutely bodily and part of the meaning. One feels a rhythm. Rhyme is felt as much as heard. It’s almost as if the ear is learning to feel when it hears a great rhyme. So I think in a way memorising such poems helps one learn to read and take seriously traditional poetic values that in a postmodernist framework might be easily dismissed.
If you have 12 minutes and 19 seconds to spare, you could do better with that small slab of time than listen to the whole thing.
Incidentally, as I was fiddling around trying to get you that link, I found that the Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day has featured a swathe of Australians, including most recently Michael Sharkey reading his ‘Eating Sin‘.
This fabulous thing has been up on YouTube for years, ignored by millions – there aren’t even any comments that need to be avoided.
Who’d have thought Gertrude Stein could be such fun? Thanks Harriet the Blog
Jenny Joseph and Pythia Ashton-Jewell (illustrator), Warning : When I am an old woman I shall wear purple (poem © 1962, this edition Souvenir Press 1997)
I was mooching a book from someone in England, and they wanted me to take more than one book to make it worth their while. They had this illustrated Warning on their inventory. It’s a poem I’ve seen on feminist fridges for more than 30 years, so I added it to my list. I had it in mind to give to someone as a gift, but by the time it arrived – by surface mail – yesterday I’d forgotten who. So I gave it to the self-described poetry loather I live with.
She read it, said it had more in it than she remembered, and read it to me. Helped by the layout – one or occasionally two lines a page – she read it beautifully, slowly, thoughtfully. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Jenny Joseph has said she wishes she’d never written the bl*dy thing. Certainly she’s famous for issuing take-down notices when her many fans put it up on their sites without thinking to ask. But it’s a good poem.
There’s a lot to be said for publishing poems with illustration. This is something I had used to agonise over when publishing a children’s magazine. By presenting poems with illustration were we straitening the readers’ responses, telling them how to read the poem rather than giving the words free play? It made the page more inviting, but at what expense?
I’ve had a couple of experiences recently that make me think there should be much more of it.
When Carol Ann Duffy was recently appointed Poet Laureate, I came across an animation of one of her poems, and though I found the animation not at all to my taste, or a fair reflection of the poem, it slowed my reading down, and let the poem sink in – it’s a good poem. I’ve just found it on YouTube.
A couple of years ago, I was very taken with the Poetry Foundation’s sadly brief series Poem as Comic Strip, which similarly slowed the brain down to receptive speed. I particularly liked the Emily Dickinson–Gabrielle Bell page (this link is to a 580k PDF). See what you think.