Monday, December 15, 2008

Poetry Reading Voice...

e ?
The poetry reading   v   

s  ?
It goes sorta like  th 

y ?
It drives me   c

A family resemblance to the spoken inflection of the freshmen women in my classes.
o u s?
Valley girlish... but deadly    s

One of the causes of my dropping out of the reading scene some twenty years ago, of why I was so pleased last year when I first heard CA Conrad, Ish Klein and several other Philly poets. I've been going to every reading I can manage since, and have not once heard that... voice?

With the little pause after the penultimate word at the end of the ... line?
Every line end ... stopped? I think it's supposed to indicate poetic ... irony? In case the audience doesn't get it from the ... words?

And the superscript question mark tag like a helium balloon tied to the last word.

I tried to describe that voice to someone recently. Someone who did not and does not go to readings. I couldn't remember it well enough to get it right.

Now I have a video.
From the Geraldine Dodge Foundation Festival of the School of Quietude.

I have a theory that this is where vampires come from... I know I can't listen to the end with wanting to sink my teeth into the poet's throat... not necessarily the jugular. More like the voicebox!


  1. AAArghh I can't bear it. The other relation to this is the Australian Query Intonation (AQI)
    This irritating habit has caught on in the UK in a big way and is the sole reason for my leaving that country

  2. Word veri for that last comment was nounpie

  3. PRV (Poetry Reading Voice) seems to have a separate origin, and there's more to it than the rising intonation on the last word. The line up to the end is flattened out. Also much older. Poets who still do this are older. I haven't heard it in younger poets--even when they do the Valspeak thing in conversation.

    My guess is it that's it a quirk developed by late mid-century poets, still conscious of breaking with the tradition of verse with fixed meter.

    My students--the women (none of the men use that rising tone thing), when they read, read like second graders--no expression at all. Just one word after another. The AQI and valspeak are conversational conventions, the PRV is literary. Poets who use it don't talk that way, and young people who talk that way (even poets), don't read that way.

    Isn't trivia a comfort when the world is falling apart around you...

  4. I pad my life with trivia Jacob - it's all I have to hang on to

  5. After the looters and con men get through with us, trivia is about all the rest of us will have left.