This is a part of my grade. I am a rather shy person....perhaps that is why I enjoy poetry (but of course that doesn't occur to the professor). Anyhow on April 2 I have to go to a studio-type place on campus and "perform" a poem of my own writing and/or another's. While I want to do a good job I don't want to bother to break out of my shell and do any real "acting" here, but I think Prof. will be looking real close at details. Anyone got any great poems for performance and why? Heard any great performances and why?
To be honest, the only poet I ever heard were the tapes the professor played in class, and Sylvia Plath's "Mushroom", that I heard online at the NPR site. Other links would be nice (hint hint)
Here is one that I am considering simply because I love it and think it performs itself quite nicely.
DIRGE WITHOUT MUSIC by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I am not resiged to the shutting away of lovers in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,--but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,--
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. I am not resigned.
I remember Chesil mentioning a site on either the BBC or Guardian, featuring poets reading their own works, such as Eliot and Prufrock, but I can't find it again right now. Perhaps he can send it up again?
I think that either the Millay or the Plath that you just memorized would work well. Don't worry too much about 'acting it out' physically, but make sure that the meaning is in your voice. If you say it like you mean it- the actions will come.
Example- if you were really telling me (but magically speaking like Millay) that 'I am not resigned........, ' you'd probably be looking sad but determined, and perhaps shaking your head. The emphasis would be on 'not.' I am NOT resigned.
Tell us how it goes! Performance can be fun!
Thank you Pam! I forgot to mention the fact that in this studio, ther will be musicians that will "catch some sort of vibe" from the peotry and play music to my voice. There will also be a man with power to turn knobs that will make my voice sound change (gulp). I won't be first!
Wow! Hearing Sylvia Plath read that poem in her own words is really astounding!
In my copy the first line of DIRGE WITHOUT MUSIC is different from what's posted above:
"I am not resigned to the shutting away of LOVING HEARTS in the hard ground."
Try to be calm. You will do just fine. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all speak with a background of mood music? Let us know how it goes. What fun!
The Millay poem would be a fine choice as a short performance piece. Your feeling and enthusiasm for it should enable you to do well.
That's good advice from Pam to make your voice the main performer. Your aim is to speak the poem so that a mere listener gets a really good appreciation of it. There are some techniques that can help in that:
Nouns don't often need voice emphasis; the listener's mind attributes weight to them anyway. Emphasising adjectives (including past participles like 'gone' and 'lost' used adjectivally), and to a lesser extent adverbs, works better to convey meaning to a listener. Also emphasising negative particles, such as 'no' 'not' 'never' 'un-' (e.g. in the Millay, 'IN-discriminate').
We're talking subtle emphasis here, not to be confused with the necessary giving of weight to the 'beats' in a line. That's done by the speed and rhythm of word delivery. In musical terms, you can pace syllables as quavers, semi-quavers or demi-semi-quavers as may be needed to fit the rhythm, and insert occasional pauses. Like a musician, you should always be aware of and conform to the poem's rhythm, so that the listener gets it too. Which is not to say that the rhythm has to be constant, or can't be interpreted differently by different performers.
The Millay poem is interesting in varying the number of beats to a line, matching the surges of emotion and meaning. The first two lines strike me as 8-beat. The third is probably best spoken as 5-beat, though could be 6. I'd treat the fourth as 4-beat, though could be 5. The next three lines are surely 5-beat. And so on.
Finally, let your enjoyment of the occasion overcome your shyness. Show confidence and maintain the flow of the poem by keeping your voice tone up at the end of each line. Don't drop it like a heavy schoolbag on the last word of each line, as many reluctant or bashful readers of poetry do.
I'd tell the accompanying mood musicians to keep quiet, unless I had rehearsed with them. Will you have any control over the music?
Post Edited (03-21-04 04:59)
Well said! I hear the beats as:
Why there are 15 lines instead of 14, I can only guess. Perhaps a 'dirge' is a 15-line form, but I dunno. Ground has no matching rhyme, unless it was intended as a near rhyme with mind and resigned in the same stanza.
Heck, with all that going on, you ought to be guaranteed an A.
You are right. It should read "loving hearts".
I don't think I get the luxury of asking the musicians to keep quiet, as they are there for a grade as well. And there will be no rehearsing...they are "improv" musicians. I was told that there will be an electric guitar, keyboardist and a violinist. Prof. said it usually stays within the realms of classical and jazz. I think I get a copy of the CD.
There is no such thing, unfortunately.
There are some good suggestions here and not to be too frivolous. If nothing else you could dye your hair green (if it isn't already) (no offense intended) and resite "Trees" by Kilmer.
My hair is not green, and sorry I'm not desperate enough to get an 'A'.....thanks for the idea, though!
You can try that the next time!
I found some more online listening booths. I had a lot of fun with them last night....thought I might share them with you. Anne Sexton's "Her Kind" is great to listen to, as well as William Carlos Williams.
I hope your prof. makes allowance for the difficulty of performing a sophisticated reflective poem while three uncontrolled musical improvisers compete for attention and grades! If not, or if the possibility of cacophonous accompaniment dismays you (as it would me), you might consider a complete change of tack. You could pick a lowbrow, fast action ballad, which the musicians' efforts would be less likely to spoil.
Something like 'Banjo' Paterson's 100-year old but enduringly popular
'The Geebung Polo Club':
It was somewhere up the country, in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives from the rugged mountain side,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn't ride;
But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash --
They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:
And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong,
Though their coats were quite unpolished, and their manes and tales were long.
And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub;
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.
It was somewhere down the country, in a city's smoke and steam,
That a polo club existed, called the "Cuff and Collar Team".
As a social institution 'twas a marvellous success,
For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress.
They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek,
For their cultivated owners only rode 'em once a week.
But they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show those Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
And they took their valets with them -- just to give their boots a rub
Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.
Now my readers [listeners] can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator's leg was broken -- just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar Captain, when he tumbled off to die
Was the last surviving player -- so the game was called a tie.
Then the Captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground,
Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around;
There was no one to oppose him -- all the rest were in a trance,
So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance,
For he meant to make an effort to get victory for his side;
So he struck at goal -- and missed it -- then he tumbled off and died.
By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There's a row of little headstones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a rude inscription saying, "Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here."
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies' feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub --
He's been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.
hmmm....let that sink into me a bit.
Did you survive?
Ahhh! Thanks for asking! I was nerve-racked as usual. There were only 4 of us poets, an electric guitar, a keyboardist, and a violinist. I read 2 poems, "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath and "Her Kind" by Anne Sexton. I just don't have their amazing voices. I sort of have a weak little nothing of a voice, but I am anxious to get a copy of the CD. When it was over with, I was actually a little disappointed...I wanted to read Dirge Without Music, but the music they were playing just didn't quite fit the mood. But it wasn't as bad as flying in an airplane!
Thanks for asking, Pam.
FLYING in a plane, not too bad. Its the bits near the ground I worry about.
When it was over with, I was actually a little disappointed
I hear that a lot.
Stop that right now Mr Clary!!!
Sorry I'm late
How about the Telltale Heart?
"I "Love Summer more than I hate Winter"
But YOU DID IT, Talia!
Good for you!
That's not a poem. Isn't that a tale? I do like it, though.
Thanks. Professor gave me a copy of the CD yesterday and it sounds pretty cool, although I don't have the deep sexy voice of Anne Sexton nor the proper semi-English accent of Sylvia Plath, it was still pretty cool to listen to.
If YOU think it was "pretty cool," everyone else probably found it life altering!
Life altering? Well, my husband listened to it (who does not read poetry at all) and after listening to me read Anne Sexton's "Her Kind" and think he was a little shocked. Thank you for all your kind words! I wish I could play it for you.
Read by the author
about this recording
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.
I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.
I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.
From The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton. Used with permission.
Copyright © 1997-2004 by The Academy of American Poets
hOW CAN THEY MAKE A JUDGEMENT LIKE THAT IN A MINUTE AND A HALF?