Coming in at the end of day 17 in my Poetry Month personal challenge of recording a poem per day this April. If you followed at all last year, you’ll remember the challenge involved all videos on my YouTube channel. This year I’ve modified things a bit because I don’t actually have the three to four hours extra time per day. First, the majority of these are actually being recorded on my SoundCloud stream, and only a few so far have been on YouTube. I’ve made a conscious effort to record them this year in as few takes as possible, often in only the first or second take. Now, that might mean that all the readings won’t be as polished, but this approach forces me to read the poem several times through first, then not piddle about, and concentrate on getting it right the first time.
Also, I kept myself to 30 poets in 2012, but this year I’ve done some repeats. Actually, I did repeat Kenneth Koch by accident last year, but oh well. You can click here to check out the playlist for last year’s challenge, or click here for April, 2012 as it appears on the pages of The Dad Poet. Sorry, it scrolls backwards in the archives, but I tended to write a good deal more commentary here on the blog than I did in the video descriptions.
And this year I am not being as hard on myself as to whether I get the recording done by midnight, as I work a lot of evenings. Generally, you might notice that after about a day, I adjust the time of the reading to a short bit before midnight. If I miss it’s generally only by only a few minutes anyway. The reason I do this is not to be deceptive, but so that by month’s end the archive will have each day’s recording on the proper day whether I finished on time, or missed by a minute (or an hour). Seriously, it’s past midnight now, but since I haven’t yet been to bed, to me it’s still Wednesday, and it’s already been the 18th for five hours to my friends in the UK, so time is pretty relative anyway.
The point though is that poetry is not just something to be seen, but also something to be heard. And it’s been sort of my personal mission for a while now to try to help bring poetry alive to people whose hearts were dead to the art form (usually killed off in high school, which is, as Billy Collins says, ” where poetry goes to die” ). I contend that awakening can happen when people hear it read, or even better, when they read it out loud for themselves. So really, you need to try it yourself! Can’t quite wrap your brain around the style, the cadence, the diction, the odd line endings of a poet with whom you are unfamiliar? Read her/his work out loud, and you’ll be surprised how soon you start to get a feel for it.
One of my greatest influences in this was by the good man from the SpokenVerse channel on YouTube. He goes by the pseudonym Tom O’Bedlam. And he does a better job than I at reading today’s poem by Philip Larkin. Click here to hear the poem in Tom’s incredible voice. His visuals also include the view from Larkin’s “High Windows.” O’Bedlam also has a link to a clip of Larkin reading the poem himself. Poets are not always the best readers of their own work, sad to say, but Philip Larkin’s version is quite lovely.
There are things about Larkin that remind me of Tomas Hardy, though that might seem like a leap to you. It’s something about the dark humor and the themes of death, though Larkin seems to have a lot more light in his poems than Hardy did. This one is a good example of what I mean, with its talk of new life and starting over. Like yesterday’s poem from Emily Dickinson, it is fitting for the spring season. It’s called “The Trees.”
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
- Why Did I Dream of You Last Night? by Philip Larkin (lakshanisuranga.wordpress.com)
- Born Yesterday – Philip Larkin (gcserevisionhelp.wordpress.com)
- Roger McGough on discovering poetry, his mother’s influence and envying The Beatles (telegraph.co.uk)
- Time’s Passing (timesflowstemmed.com)