Requests for Toy Piano by Tony Hoagland

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.

In this reblogged form, you have to click below where it says “view original post” (or here) to hear Micah’s version.

The Monkey Prodigy

Read this poem by clicking here.

There are several good readings like the one below. A few of them are from the Poetry Out Loud competition which introduced me to this poem.

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4 thoughts on “Requests for Toy Piano by Tony Hoagland

    • Excellent points. And I really don’t ever want to be critical of anyone who has the balls to stand up and read poems, theirs or someone else’s, in public. I did not do that until I was many years older. And you’re right, regardless of skill or method, the important thing, the marvelously wonderful thing is that people are reading out loud and it should be encouraged without fear of anyone (least of all, your grumpy old man) looking down their noses at them.

      I know I wouldn’t have started reading poems on YouTube however many years ago, except that I found other readings that I just loved. And I should re-stress, I don’t mean all emotion should be stripped from a reading. There’s a voice I admire greatly on YouTube who, despite his gorgeous mellifluous voice, sometimes sounds too monotone and uninterested. Again, I temper that with, gee, isn’t it awesome people are doing it at all!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The best readers trust the words a poet has labored to provide. They don’t feel a need to add something, and they avoid injecting too much of themselves. The best readers understand the words they choose to present to an audience. They speak clearly and simply so the meaning and the music is brought out. I’ve heard Mark Doty do it in person, and Richard Blanco in recordings. Maybe this doesn’t apply to all poetry — rap/hip hop, for example — but it’s what I love to hear.

    Liked by 1 person

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