Saturday, December 26, 2009


Held inside by the still white-out, the rising snow-piles disturbed only by wind's strikes, I do something as natural to me as breathing: poet-listening.

Poet-listening: v., to listen to the words of other poets I may only dream to be.

And the poets? They are the graceful Marie Ponsot, the elegant W.S. Merwin, the natural world-exploring Jim Harrison, the compelling Li-Young Lee, the teller-of-the-ordinary Galway Kinnell, the New Formulist Mary Jo Salter, to name but a few.

These poets read out loud, and their words no longer sit black-typed on white ground-bound. They read, and their words become: the place, the look, the thing. The sight, the sound, the smell, the touch, and, yes, the taste.

Every sense becomes what it is not when we take our focus off the page, off the book opened, off the hand holding the book and the eyes looking down.

Lucky enough, we see how the poets read, notice how their eyes meet the camera and not their book, because the words, instilled, come from memory. And the memory creates the picture we're given. We hear how the words are meant to be read, where the voice falters or breaks, when it rises and falls before stopping altogether. We smell the moss, the lilac, the antelope on the butte, the water's scent. We touch the place inside where the words grab, clutch, hold on, give up, give out. We taste the burning-off of the high-rise falling and the fruit market exploding, and a seared edge of skin, the sending up of dust and ash, the bringing down of stars and dreams.

Join me in poet-listening. Hear, for example, the 88-year-old Marie Ponsot, whose most recent collection is Easy: Poems. She recites, one after the other, her poems "A Rune, Interminable", "Contracted", "TV, Evening News", and "Thank Gerard". Her voice is here.

Go here to do more poet-listening. Close your eyes as each video plays so that your senses do not depend on your watching.

A poem read aloud by its maker can transform.


The New York Times published an article on Ponsot, "The Wonder Years", on December 20, 2009. Read it here.


Janet Oberholtzer said...

I've never done this, but your post makes me want to try it sometime. Thanks!

Louise Gallagher said...

Oh Maureen. Thank you for this. I listened. I sank. Deep. Into that space where I become one with the poet and the poet becomes me.

Thank you.



Eric said...

It seems as though it is sometimes forgotten that poetry can be, and maybe more so is, an auditory medium. It is much easier for many to hear the rhythms of the poet than to read them on a stark white page. I've found it a great vehicle for entering into a poem on a much deeper, intimate level.

Anonymous said...

just read this...

and it makes me

glad that you have snow

encourage you to post about this!

i will have to check some of these out later on... probably at night when the home settles down.

Laura said...

I think poetry is meant to be read out loud. It means so much more that way. And read by the author, yes. Even better. Have to go check out these links now. Thanks for sharing, Maureen.

travelmom said...

Looking forward to listening when it is still and I can let the words resonate within. Thank you for this.