Friday, January 14, 2011

Sometime Voices

This is the Author's Note from the beginning of one of my great uncle Sherwin's books of poetry Sometime Voices -

"In this hectic world, there is too little reason for people to read and even less for them to read out loud. As a result, I have a sometime hunger for hearing the sound of literate human voices reading careful, crafted words.

Television sets and ghetto blasters fill our homes and streets with plastic babble. But aside from occasional bedtime stories for children, the human voice reading intelligent words is rarely heard. This is unfortunate.

Reading aloud involves the intellect as well as the emotions far more intensely than reading silently. Even when done alone, reading aloud is more neighborly, stimulating, and involving. It is almost as if the audible voice becomes an additional interpretive presence that encourages human interchange.

One of the attractions of poetry, more than other forms of literature, is its invitation to the voice and ear to savor consonants, rhythms, and even silences. I believe that Sometime Voices will be better understood and felt if read aloud.

I have a friend who vows upon retirement to "save society" by frequenting bustling downtown corners where he will wear old hats (he says) and read some verse aloud to anyone who cares to listen.

I hope he does."

Sherwin battled melanoma and died in 2001. He was 65.

I have very few memories of Sherwin but the ones that I do have are very important to me. He seemed to know everything that a person could know. I remember going to California with my family to visit him. He was President of Deep Springs College (which is a unique and wonderful institution) and I remember thinking that he must be some kind of intellectual superhero to be president of an entire college.

Reading out loud is more rare now than it was in 1988 when he wrote the above passage. In fact, it is so rare that is sounds alien to me. I began reading his poetry aloud and a strange feeling filled my room. I felt more alone than I had in a long time. I struggled to continue and I am very glad that I did. Eventually the veil of awkwardness lifted and reading aloud became natural and made his poetry feel vibrant and alive.

Since then I have been trying to read many things out loud. It has opened up a new world of sensation to me. It's amazing. Try it.

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