"'Poet voice', is the pejorative, informal name given to this soft, airy reading style that many poets use for reasons that are unclear to me. The voice flattens the musicality and tonal drama inherent within the language of the poem, and it also sounds overly stuffy and learned."
As with Julie R. Enszer's "Are Too Many People Writing Poetry?", Mr. Smith won't overwhelm us with his literary ability. (Nor will his poetry, as we'll soon discover.) Nevertheless, he makes a number of excellent points. I'd like to pick up where he left off.
Gregory Orr Reading "Gathering the Bones".
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #28|
Poet voice is every bit as monotonous--literally and figurative--as slam voice; it's just quieter.
Poets must think they're talking to people who are new to the English language.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #37|
The first thing a verse performer (e.g. an aspiring Shakespearean actor) learns is to avoid overstressing every second [or third] syllable. It makes the cadence sound metronomic. When free versers overemphasize monosyllabic words it has the opposite effect, underscoring the utter lack of rhythm.
It is impossible to listen to any poet voicer [or slammer] without asking ourselves: "Who talks like that?" The problem is that speaking naturally while reciting free verse makes it sound like what most of it is: prose. This is the principal raison d'être for poet [and slam] voice.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #11|
Why do performers stop without warning or cause, especially after each clause? Does every poet on the planet suffer from emphysema¹?
I hate quibbling about examples of well acted poetry outside of the theater, especially since I cannot come up with many myself. That is the state of the art. Yes, the poets whose performances he praises (i.e. Heather McHugh, Tim Seibles, Mary Ruefle, Jane Wong, Ed Skoog, Lisa Ciccarello, Jessalyn Wakefield, and Anthony Madrid) do sound better than other poet voicers but that is largely because they are:
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #1|
b) getting help from multimedia (e.g. background music, graphics, cartoons, video, et cetera).
7. Eye contact.
Rich mentions the need to speak with, not at or down to, the audience ("the bear"). He fails to stress that comfortable eye contact is key.
"A Poem By Rich Smith"
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #66|
Judging from his work and bio, I'd say that Mr. Smith goes to Washington² where he encounters the typical interpretation-based Content Regency. That he took this interest in presentation is remarkable.
At the risk of ending on an immodest note, though, let me suggest that he might benefit from familiarity with The Rules of Poetry, especially as they pertain to performance.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #69|
"(For the record, poetry is UNdead... Do a page search of this article for 'green face powder' or 'Captain Eliot' and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)"
No, we won't. The mere fact that one would have to do any page searching, let alone to an article about T.S. Eliot's love life, is all the proof we need that poetry is, indeed, quite dead. Were it alive, the evidence would be all around us, in every newspaper and magazine.
¹ - My apologies to those who do!
² - Surely you saw this coming.
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