Reading Aloud with John, Part 3: William Stafford

American poet William Stafford (1914-1993)
American poet William Stafford (1914-1993) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m running a bit late with this. Last night my body had the audacity to fall asleep at 11 pm and proceed to sleep for ten hours. The nerve! Then my mic was giving me static and feedback, but I finally have a slightly bass-y, but good recording I hope for John’s Poetically Versed blog.

If you haven’t yet checked it out, the idea of his reading aloud challenge is just to see the beauty of how poems sound in various voices. It’s kind of like collecting a bunch of great covers of a favorite song. I suppose it may be a tiny niche of an interest, but I think it would be fun to hear some of these poems in other voices, other accents, more or less drama, humor or seriousness. It’s not a contest to see who can read the best, but a fun way to compare how we interpret poems when we vocalize them.

For more on how the process works, you can read the latest installment over on John’s blog One of the rules, well as the pirates say, not rules but “guidelines actually,” is to not listen to the other recordings before you upload your own. That way my way of reading, or John’s or whomever’s doesn’t influence how you interpret the lines. So if you are interested, give it a quick try. Nothing fancy, just use SoundCloud or YouTube or some other easy way (John’s blog has more ideas) and then share the results in the comments at Poetically Versed.

Then after you do that, listen to my take on it below.

For this one I chose a slightly more dramatic style than I usually use. Normally my approach is “less-is-more” since my voice can be naturally very expressive without my trying to be all actor-ish about it. But listening to this one didn’t exactly make me squirm in discomfort, so maybe a touch of drama isn’t bad for this poem.

One of my questions about this piece is: Does the story in the body of Stafford’s poem disagree with his original views as expressed in the poem’s title? Do you think he believes art must come from discontent, or do you think he’s poking fun at himself by the metaphor proving he was wrong? He’s humble that way, but like Robert Frost, he can be tricky, saying more than one thing at a time, so read and think carefully before you respond. But do respond. I am not sure of my own answer yet, so I’m eager to discuss your thoughts in the comments.

Text as copied from John, follows below the recording.


William Stafford Poem

15 Comments Add yours

  1. slpmartin says:

    The depth of your understanding of poetry is reflected in your wonderful readings…I find them as treasures in my day…thank you!


    1. You pay me the most amazing compliments, my friend. Thank you for that. Your own readings and musings are an inspiration to me. You might notice I’ve done a little cosmetic work, just a bit on the blog, and there is a little linky to your blog now down in the lower right panels. 🙂


  2. John says:

    Reblogged this on Johnbalaya and commented:
    A reading of this week’s poem, by my friend, and Poetry Guru …


  3. While raading I had to ask myself WWJCD? (What would Joan Crawford do?) How would she read it?

    I haven’t listened to your recording yet. Pondering whether to take a crack at recording it or not. I feel I could reread this ten times and interpret it differently each time. Such is the power of language.


    1. Interesting. While I didn’t think in those exact words, WWJCD (lol), I did think about the difference between some of the dramatic readings, like hers, the subdued readings, and the poorly read monotone-whilst-looking-at-the-podium reading I heard a poet do recently. Even the sing-song that can be lovely or overdone, depending on the piece or the reader. I kept coming back to a reined in dramatic voice for this one.

      Now, John has gone and selected Plath for the next one. I have friends who will be overjoyed. For me, I always find her hard to pin down, what tone translates from her pages to my voice. Only a few of her smaller pieces seem to come easy to me, so this next one, while not a contest, may be something of a personal challenge for me.


    2. Oh yes. I’d have a tough time with Plath. Give me Philip Larkin instead. Please! Will be happy to hear you do it. I’m sure you will overcome!


    3. I’m getting there. Seems like so much to do these last few weeks! Thanks for your encouragement. 🙂


  4. Reading, not raading. Sheesh….tiny keyboards!!!


    1. On my tablet I am alwaysbputting b’s and n’s between wordsninstead of spaces. It may be my clumsy fingers, but I like to think of it as a calibration problem.


  5. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    Great reading, David. I thoroughly enjoyed this.


  6. This was awesome, David! You really have a lovely voice – strong, clear!


    1. Thank you, Lisa!


    2. Yep. Just had Brian listen, too! He thought you were really awesome. And that comes from a man who can make people weep with how he reads out loud.


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