crappin' on about the inconsequential, i would like to recommend these people's writing, lines I wish I'd written

Blogs and journals and the poetry voice

I recently discovered Linebreak, which is an online poetry journal that publishes one new poem a week. It’s a nice minimalist format that works well with the whole blog concept – in some ways I prefer the idea of a new poem to read every week, more than I do the idea of twenty or thirty poems to read in a chunk every two or three months.

It’s a distinction that I first came across in an essay by Dave Bonta from qarrtsiluni in which he considers the advantages that the blogging model of literary journals has over the traditional print-volume model, and I have to say it really appeals to me.

Anyway, I was trawling thru the Linebreak archives and I came across “American History”, an amazing poem by Bob Hicok. Here’s a sample:

If you’ve ever been denied the chance for glory
in battle, you wouldn’t do this to a helmet
or a codpiece or the future, wouldn’t look back
or discuss looking back or even have a back.
You’d get rid of your back, you’d be all front,
all face, kneecaps, the zone of genitalia.

Each poem on Linebreak is accompanied by a recording of the poem being read by another poet – not the author. I’ve downloaded a couple of them and was kind of amused to note that both of the readers do their readings in that “poetry reading” voice – you know the one – that kind of lilts? up? and draawss… out… just sliightly… to make its emphases.

I’m wondering if the readers even know that they’re doing it – it’s such a ubiquitous performance style for poetry – and it also makes me wonder if poets ever accidentally slip into that voice outside the context of poetry readings.

Like, do poets ever accidentally ask their partner to pass the remote in their performance voice?

“Honey – have you? Seeeennn… The reMOTE… ?”

And what would happen if you took that voice into your professional context? Like, did a job interview in your poet voice? Would you be in with a better or worse chance?

“I’ve. ALWAYS. Thought of myselfff… As a teeeammm… PLAYerrr…”

3 thoughts on “Blogs and journals and the poetry voice”

  1. Oh, poetry voice. What would we do without it?

    There is almost no good way to read poetry aloud. Yet I can’t get away from the fact that poetry readings sometimes bring something new to the work…


    The worst is the awkward pause while the poet turns the page, and the audience decides to be mature (read: ma-toor) and hold its applause until the end.

  2. What gets me is the sound audience members sometimes make after the conclusion of a poem. That ‘pensive’ noise: ‘mmmmm’. Making this noise may mark you out as a ‘literary’ type.

  3. kind of like that jazz host guy from the fast show who always turned to camera two to say “…nice.” when he wanted to make his point about how cool he was.

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