Saturday, September 16, 2006

Back Link Best But Not Only


Christine responded to my effusive praise of listening to poets read their poems, versus reading poems, with the following comment.

I find Lia’s opinion that listening to the author is the only way of understanding a poem a bit extreme. What about the poems of authors who died long ago? No chance to understand them? What about music, by the way? Would the only way of understanding Mozart’s music be listening to him playing? Interpreting poems and interpreting music is very much the same thing, basically, and listening to the author can give interesting hints. But how much pleasure can be gathered from trying to seek the truth behind words or keys of music written down long time ago.

I didn’t mean listen to the poets is the “only” way to understand a poem. It was intended as an exaggerated way of saying it is perhaps the best way, if the opportunity arises. As perhaps fashion conscious women say the only way to understand fashion is to go to the fashion shows in Milan, London, Paris, or New York City.


When I was originally trying to come up with some sort of allegory about how marvellous and entertaining the audio recordings in Poetry Archive are, I did consider for a moment using reading music and hearing it. But, the problem is, composers don’t necessarily play their own music. And, for most people, looking at a sheet of music does not awaken the sounds in their brains.


The fact is, the words in poems stir up images, introduce nuances, and tease or elude us in meaning. Then comes the poet and recites the poem and instantly fills our ears and hearts with all of the afore-mentioned and more.

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