I don’t believe in fate, or any sort of mystical, supernatural predetermination of the universe. Sometimes great poets die just when you were becoming really familiar with their work. However, I do remember, back in October, being startled when in the week after we read “Blackberry Eating” at the Cross Keys Poetry Society, Galway Kinnell, the composer of that lovely piece of linguistic music passed away.
I had chosen “Blackberry Eating” to read at Cross Keys partly in response to our previous reading of “Blackberry Picking” by Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, who had passed on the year before. Since I did recordings in memory of Heaney, I had decided to similarly experiment with recording a few pieces by Kinnell. It’s a fine, and humbling way to get to know a poet, by working your lips and tongue around the words he wrote, finding one’s own spoken interpretation of the work, while hoping to honor the writer as well.
I am sorry I have not shared them with you until now, though if you follow my SoundCloud stream you have already heard these. I will include my readings below, followed by links to the text of both “Blackberry Eating,” and “Saint Francis and the Sow.” The Saint Francis reading was not one I was happy with, at least not until about halfway through when the flow seemed to really smooth itself out. Considering the difficulty of translating the syntax of that piece into voice, even after listening to the poet’s own reading, I decided to let it be as I recorded it, and perhaps that mirrors somewhat the message of the poem, how beauty is found in things unexpected. In any case, the audio quality of that one is far better than the first, since it was recorded after the mic upgrade.
I will also include below a couple of readings by Kinnell, including one from the archives of the Scranton Public library (almost local for me) from 1979 in which he recites his famous poem, “The Bear,” though he seemed later in life to be less enthusiastic than his fans about that oft requested piece.
You can follow along the text on SoundCloud or on the Poetry Society of America.
Follow along on Poets.org while you listen.