Who doesn’t carry the voice of the poet in his head when (s)he reads – if you’ve heard the poet read aloud. Now with live readings the rule rather than the exception you can hear a poet without too much trouble – your locals and those passing through. Plus what the FM plays or TV shows (tho almost never). Plus tapes made available slowly more & more. The NY Poetry Project double album is a necessity in this day if not this age. And however, wherever you read (always intriguing where & when people read their books) you can & usually do hear Ginsberg or Whalen or Baca or Benson or Grahn or Randall or who it is when you read.
Thus poetry could easily be nibbling at its own roots – where it came from, in the cave the wall shaking with the spirits – or in the chanted circle with the dancers and the total pageantry of the buffalo, mixed game animals, dance. The entire place made up in wild sunny colors around the plaza to the sound of the chant-poem coming out.
The music took over at the Fillmore Auditorium but the walls were sweeping & vibrating with building-size flashes, images concatenated to the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane. Struck me similar to a Native American dance outdoors.
Ron Silliman says performance is only a form. “…its ties are closer to other arts than to the tradition of poetry.” To me the “tradition of poetry” is only performance with the publishing of it increasingly a spin-off rather than the first and only powerful presence. Of course all poets are different in this and some would rather choke on their martini olive rather than read their poetry.
In Dallas Gertrude Stein says, “I always like reading to Hockaday girls. It was funny about reading. I had never read anything aloud much except all the letters of Queen Victoria to Alice Toklas at the beginning of the war and I had never thought of myself as reading and I had never read anything I had written and then when they asked me it seemed very strange to me & then somehow I came to like it, it sounds very interesting as I read it, quite so to me.” (Everybody’s Autobiography, 1937.)
And so the Caedman recording (wish there was more) brings her rhythms & voicing out in an ultimate way. Now long after Lindsay, Thomas & Ginsberg the way is open to strike the environment down and erect your own – so that the voice of the poet will not go down in history illuminated by fluorescent lights. The performance of a poem includes what people look at as well as the sound. But I’m in a tiny camp with my feelings on this– I carry my backdrop, on my face sometimes an appropriate mask, with different shaped givens known as my poems – and I bring my own lamp.
larry goodell / placitas, new mexico / 1997(?) this writing may be from 1997 but I can still honor it and add “cd’s & mp3’s” in addition to “tapes” . . . .