"Darling, all night // I have been flickering, off, on, off, on."

This audio recording from Sylvia Plath is awesome for a couple of reasons. 

One -- listen to Natasha Trethewey read her poems before you listen to this. Just for a moment, which is what I did. I like Trethewey's poems on the page -- but she begins reading in that sing-songy poet voice and I have to click off the recording. I just can't listen to it. The poem stops making sense and all I can hear is that infernal rise and dip of the Poet Voice. (Boo!)

In "Fever, 103" Plath reads her poem like she's auditioning for the part of Malificent in Disney's Sleeping Beauty -- her voice is domineering and full of that faux-British radio/movie speech that Americans adopted in the 30s and 40s and gave up, I don't know, maybe 5 or so years after this was recorded. (It sounds a little antiquated even for the 60s.) Even still, her performance of the piece is fiery and powerful and puts so many contemporary poets and their readings to shame.

Two -- The draft she reads is different from the final printed draft, as you'll see if you read along. I love hearing/seeing her writing process as evidenced from this recording.

Three -- There's some lovely but bizarrely-placed classical guitar that charges in at the end of the recording. The effect is dizzying. (What were they thinking?)


Linda Gregg manages to avoid the poet-voice thing a little better here, in "Night Music."


I've been absent from the blog for more than a week, and I missed it. I didn't miss Facebook or email, which -- happily -- I didn't have much time for while in Rehoboth, DE for my youngest sister's wedding  . . . but I missed writing here. 

I did do some writing while on vacation -- namely, I finished a poem I wrote for my sister's ceremony. It's odd, being commissioned to write occasional poems. This was the second time I've been asked to write a poem for a wedding, and it was just as difficult as the first time.

There's an immense pressure that accompanies writing a poem-by-request. Instead of writing simply to meet your own expectations, you write to meet the expectations of the person who made the request. And for the very general-audience that accompanies a wedding ceremony, there's an additional need -- a need for the poem to be clear and simple (not simplistic, but not syntactically complex, either). The poem's meaning or message or dominant image needs to be crystal clear after one reading for the occasion to be a success. Whether or not the poem rewards after multiple readings thereafter determines the poem's success. 

I'm not sure if either of my wedding poems have accomplished this -- but they seemed to do what they were called to do for the occasions, and I certainly worked hard enough on both. My sister's poem was finished, however, only hours before I had to read it. I found (finally) a few spare moments by myself when, on the day of the wedding, I locked myself in the enormous bathroom of the beach house with a glass of wine and took a swim in the tub. This was, really, my only moment alone the entire week, so it's nothing short of a miracle that the poem was written at all. Luckily, that one half-hour was enough for the poem to finally come together. 

And people who heard it seemed to like it, and more importantly, my sister seemed to like it -- so -- I am relieved and gratified and will deem that occasion a success.


Since we returned home, I've been trying to attack laundry (how does this family go through so many clothes in a week?) as well as get back into the swing of things with my writing and reading schedule. I'm halfway through Glyn Maxwell's The Boys at Twilight and I've partially begun the Italo Calvino book of essays. I'm about two-thirds of the way through my fairy tale -- that is, scanning it, and identifying lines I want to examine more closely and possibly revise. This process is long

Also, I've begun research for the essay I'm going to submit to The Writer's Chronicle -- a whole slew of essays about Carolyn Forchè and the poetry of witness as well as some articles that are not about Forchè but include some talk of the poetry of witness or are related in some way to the poetry of witness. (For the first time since I began teaching, I'm actually using JSTOR for something other than identifying plagiarism. WIN!)


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