Irreverent Mama

Friday, January 23, 2009

I wandered lonely as a cloud...

The boy stood on the burning deck...

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan...

Come into the garden, Maud...

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy...

Lazy, laughing, languid Jenny...

A panther is much like a leopard...

Tiger, tiger, burning bright...

Do not go gentle into that good night...

Once upon a midnight dreary...


I grew up with poetry. My grandfather, born and educated in Britain at a time when poetry recitation was a mainstay, sought to fill the gap in his grandchildren's Canadian education with a fine round of poetry. It was never dreary, it was fun. I loved memorizing the rolling phrases, I loved hearing him recite a poem with enthusiasm and zest, or, when the poem demanded, with great spooky mystery, and I loved doing the same.

And yet, when I hear the strains of a poetry-reading beginning on the CBC, I almost always turn the radio off -- generally with an exclamation of exasperation -- within the first fifteen seconds. I just can't stand it.

When my grandfather and I shared poetry, it vibrated with energy. When I hear poetry declaimed on the radio, it is moaned in a deadpan, the words falling like some relentless drip, drip, drip. Not dripping of water, clean and fresh. More like, oh... the plop, plop, plop of (so I imagine) sludge from a sewage pipe.

Who wants to listen to that? The poetry of my childhood was not "kiddy poetry". It was rich and layered and nuanced, full of marvellous sounds and meaning -- and yet it was presented as exciting, interesting, full of LIFE.

There is no life in their droning. Only tedious, pretentious efforts at sounding portentious.

Or something. I have no idea why they feel they must read the stuff like that. Why turn something so rich and vibrant into a tedious, dreary droning? It doesn't have to be that way. I've heard the odd Poetry Slam on the CBC, where poetry is turned into a rhythmic, pulsating form of performance art. Very cool.

Let's have more of that, shall we? More life and less droooooning.

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2 Comments:

  • Right off, I recognized five of those lines. You might guess, I love poetry.
    I often read Dennis Lee's Garbage Delight to my kids and it's one of their favourites.
    But, after reading this, I'll start reciting more mature selections. Perhaps some Blake.

    "In the forests of the night..."

    By Blogger Denguy, at 10:30 AM  

  • What immortal hand or eye...

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 10:45 AM  

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