The Genius of the Sea

September 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

Poetry is a special kind of purely verbal language. There is a visual aspect, of course, and I do not want to limit its presentational possibilities. But I confess that if I have a bias toward any sense, it is toward that of hearing. I adore silence, this is true, but only because what one notices when silence has seemingly been achieved. Breathy rasps and belly gurgles; the sound made when one scratches a leg or a beard; the aural qualities of colors. I fear the loss of sound more than anything else sometimes. Would that one could scream in the final moments of drowning.

Nevertheless, hearing poetry read is not something I actually do all that often. There are reasons for this that I will explore, I hope, in future posts. But when I am in the mood, I love finding recordings of the poet reading his or her own work. A remarkable example of this, I think, is Wallace Stevens reading one of my favorite poems of his, “The Idea of Order at Key West.” Rarely is something so perfect.

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