The Brookline Poetry Series Weblog

October 21, 2007

Hearing Yourself

Filed under: Uncategorized — brooklinepoetry @ 4:20 pm
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I was recorded this morning, for a poem that’s being published in an online journal, and it was a strange experience. It got me thinking about what it’s like to hear your own voice come back to you.

At our series each month, person after person approaches the mic, reads, and we hear that voice. It enters us, often sustains us, may make us laugh.

There’s something crucial about hearing poetry. I received from my friend John a recording of Seamus Heaney reading his own translation of Beowulf, in both contemporary and Old English, and it’s such a delight. I will often peruse the listening booth at the Academy of American Poets website. I have several collections of poetry on disc–my favorite is Auden–that I’ll listen to now and again. The digital age is allowing us to download Dylan Thomas onto our IPods. It’s a remarkable time to be a lover of verse.

Still, listening to my own voice was strange. Almost like the experience of your own voice coming back to you in a canyon’s echo, but less fleeting. Dan V., the sound engineer, explained a bit of the mechanics–that your own voice comes to you through the solidness of your skull; it’s registering along different pathways than the voice coming through air to the listener. Like catching sight of yourself in the mirror when you aren’t expecting to–the face, the gesture, the tics are all wrong.

But it was my voice, a little more controlled than in daily conversation, modulated through a system of reverb and wires. I was listening to how my friends hear me, my family, my students. It made me wonder what exactly any of them really hears in my voice when I open my mouth and speak.

— SR

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1 Comment »

  1. Of course I should have expected that even a blog, in the capable hands of Sue, would metamorphose into poetry. Her rumination here is equally fitting to the poetic dynamic in general as it is to the question of vocal perception. How much of what we conceptualize in “the solidness of [the] skull” will resonate at the correct frequency with the reader or listener? Moreover, is there ever really a “correct” frequency at all? Even within the confines of our own artistic experience, it is striking how a poem (especially one that has been set aside for a time, almost forgotten about) can present its author with a music and a rationale that may seem completely foreign upon rediscovery, like the unintended glimpse in the mirror Sue has described. An exciting and a frightening idea, to so often find ourselves as though for the first time.

    Comment by Sean K. — October 23, 2007 @ 6:23 am | Reply


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