Monday, May 12, 2008

Listening to Verse

In our time we have forgotten by and large how poetry sounds. I don't mean that no one reads poetry out loud anymore, just that we have lost the knack of properly reading verse in rhyme and meter. Go to a contemporary poetry reading and you hear the poet take on a grave, nasal tone, ending each line with a little up or down inflection of the voice, trying to inject a little music into what is basically prose with interesting line breaks. Or as Robert Frost put it in his poem "How Hard It Is To Keep From Being King":

Free verse leaves out the metre and makes up
For the deficiency by church intoning.
Free verse so called is really cherished prose,
Prose made much of, given an air by church intoning.
It has its beauty, only I don't write it.

If you would like a daily dose of verse read well, you cannot do better than Classic Poetry Aloud.
The link takes you to a very long web page where you can both read and hear each poem. There is a searchable index here. The most recent 100 readings are available as a podcast from iTunes. I carry a dozen or so with me in the car as an alternative to the radio wasteland.