Print

Print


Dear Nancy,
I, too, was surprised by the inclusion of a CD in the 8th edition of the
Norton _Introduction to Poetry_ (ed. J. Paul Hunter).  Unlike Kennedy's,
however, it is made up entirely of readings of poems in the book, many
of them by the poets themselves.  I haven't listened to all of them, but
in addition to the unintentionally comical (to some people's taste)
reading that Yeats gives to "Lake Isle of Innisfree," there are
surprises such as a reading of Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" by F. Scott
Fitzgerald. I have listened to W. C. Williams' reading of "This Is Just
to Say," and I'm not sure it settles our disagreement about the author's
intention.  At the beginning he sounds saucy and a bit sarcastic, but
when he describes the plums, I detect a note of sensuality!

JP

J. P. Earls, OSB
St. John' University
Collegeville, MN  56321

-----Original Message-----
From: Nancy Gish [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2002 11:16 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Readers of poems--"sink in"


When I was at Michigan a very long time ago, I took intro to lit with X.
J.
Kennedy.  He used to read TWL and Sweeney Agonistes to us in jazz
rhythm (or at least that is how I heard it).  I have been reading it
ever since
and doing all kinds of "intellectual" analysis of it, but I think I have
spent
much of my life studying Eliot because I heard it first as a rhythm and
as
voices really saying things and not as an intellectual's crossword
puzzle.  I
am not saying one just stops there.  But I agree with whichever one of
you
objected to trying to approach a poem by finding a prose paraphrase--a
necessarily simplified text and no longer poetry.  Last spring my
students
were feeling really stumped by TWL, not because they were poor readers--
they were very smart seniors with much background--but because they
were trying to go beyond just a simple understanding.  A friend of mine
who is a truly great actor and director came in and read it all to them,
in all
the voices--each different--and they then knew they knew something they
could simply not have learned intellectually.  And they loved the poem.

I love the fact that I can do triple time swing with a syncopation to
"Oh Oh
Oh Oh that Shakespeherian rag."  (Eliot could dance, though apparently
not up to Viv's standards.)

I am profoundly depressed that the 8th edition of Kennedy's
INTRODUCTION TO LITERATURE (I have always used his editions for
intro myself) just arrived and is the "first interactive edition."  It
includes a
CD rom I never ordered and encourages students to do all sorts of things
with it other than read.   [Yes, I am a luddite, but obviously I'm on
this
computer.  This is a very different thing.]  I actually do not want them
to be
interactive with a machine.  I want them to read alone and sometimes out
loud and listen to an actor read all the voices.  And then go to the
library.

A long blether no doubt evoked by the notion of poetry by machine but
also by my own experience of poems.  Eliot did say poetry could
communicate before it is understood.  I think that is true.  It
communicates more and differently when it is understood.  But even that
is complicated.  "Brain activity" may not always be what we think of as
thinking.  And all mystics claim to "know" in ways other than by thought
and analysis.
Nancy