Please take a moment to relax, close your eyes, and listen to a reading of a fine poem. Okay, you don’t have to close your eyes.
A Barred Owl
By Richard Wilbur
The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”
Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.
There are so many updates to do. My recent reading in New York City, camping, and hawk watching with my boys—heck I haven’t even told you yet about the poetry conference in Paterson, NJ this summer!
But we’ll get to all of that. At least you know there are things to say, and I know there is more to come. Meanwhile, my youngest son is back at his recording gig, reading poems out loud more frequently than I have been doing lately. In fact, in this post, he has a recording of himself as well as a recording of a young lady at Poetry Out Loud competition reading this particular poem.
I think they are both fine interpretations. I’ve heard others that were too dramatic. Yes, there is such a thing as too dramatic in poetry readings. Generally, I find it best to strike a more even tone. Not monotone by any means. But if you add too many sighs and lilts of voice, too much of anything that isn’t clearly already on the page, you risk limiting the dynamic range of what was written. I realize I am biased, but I think Micah’s reading here is a good example of the less-is-more principle. It expresses just enough emotion to show that it’s human language but allows the poem to do its work without getting in the way by over-presentation.
Frequently I’ve gotta do all of this work first, and then just wait and listen.
I’ve been working on a poem since last Easter. Not unusual. Most of them don’t come quickly. Well, they may start quickly, but they don’t often come all at once. This poem was almost all there, but it had some issues. And the ending, well, the ending was more like just a stopping. It was true. It was what happened, but it wasn’t right.
So I was working on other poems this evening and decided to pull the Easter one up again to see if it wanted to play. Oh lord, the first line was a stumble, not just the ending, but the very first line. I made a note beside it saying, Continue reading “The Poem Fixed My Ending”
Oh, yeah, and to me! There’s a poet whose loss I was planning to write about, but then I remembered that I share a birthday with Mary Oliver today. And so instead of thinking about aging and death, I decided that first, it would be a good idea to spend a little time in the studio with some of Mary’s poems today.
Yesterday on Twitter, poet Chen Chen, author of When I Grow Up I Want To Be a List of Further Possibilities, tweeted that he enjoyed actually writing out or typing other people’s poems. What a cool idea! And so I tweeted back, well, this:
And while I think writing the poems of others would be an equally interesting and enlightening exercise, it’s probably not that much fun for you to watch or listen to me doing it. So for now, I’ve resorted to my old practice of recording poems that I love, partly just because I love them and partly as a way to more fully live within, and come to know them. As Chen Chen says, “rhythmic inhabiting”
For this September 10th, on which both Mary Oliver and I were born (Honestly, it really was my idea, and she didn’t seem to mind), I pulled her collection Evidence off my shelf and went into my studio; some might call it a bedroom. And here are a few poems of hers that I enjoyed vocalizing. I hope you enjoy them.
And here are a few poems of hers that I enjoyed vocalizing. I hope you enjoy them.
If you liked these poems, as my friend Neil Silberblatt says, please go to your local independent bookstore and they can get you a copy of the book so you can enjoy all of them. If you don’t have a local independent bookstore, stop by your local library.
And, though I am no Mary Oliver, my first chapbook has some similar themes and settings. I suppose I was influenced by her more than I realized. It’s called Moons, Roads, and Rivers, and it is available now for pre-order from Finishing Line Press. You’ll be able to get it from your local bookseller after November 17th, but if you’d like to have a copy anyway, ordering from the publisher by September 22nd helps me out by increasing the final press run and making us best friends. Hey, maybe you could even order a copy for your local library! Just a thought. Thanks for your help, whatever you can do.
To order my chapbook (THANK YOU!) click here. To read more about it and link to a few sample poems, go here. Thanks for making it a happy birthday. I’ll tell Mary you said hello.