Friday, August 12, 2011

Video: A Poem I Wish I'd Written

At last week's Paging Columbus (a local literary event series I run here in Ohio), I asked four poets to read their own work and poems they wish they had written. I couldn't help but share one,'s me reading Bob Hicok's "Bars Poetica."

It's refreshing to hear writers get passionate and swoony about other writers (it's important for us to promote other writers, too!), and I think it removes some pressure from a featured reader. When I read someone else's work, I feel far less self-conscious, especially initially--I can focus on bringing a poem I love to life, without getting hung up on the construction of the poem. This might not be true for everyone, but for many, I think.

I wrote a post for Voice Alpha last winter about poets performing other people's poems (Kristin LaTour also writes about it here). It helps to make poetry readings more appealing, I think--writers are sharing not only what they love, but another facet of who they are.

I think it would be great to host a reading by non-writers--people who love books, reading their favorite sections from them. Is this something you would attend? What poems do you love that you'd want to read for others?

(For more videos from Paging Columbus, visit my playlist here).


  1. You look too young to write the stuff you do! ;-)

  2. I couldn't quite hear the words so I found the poem online and listened again. Wow!

    Hannah, you are so generous in promoting the work of others. I think its great for poets to read the work of other poets.

    The non-writers workshop sounds cool!

  3. I agree with Susan: a generous spirit indeed. And an excellent choice.

  4. Clearly you have more talent than I do...I wish I had written a lot of your works...

  5. What a great idea (re: a reading from poetry/literature lovers who don't write themselves). That gets my wheels turning, too!

    PS: Love your dress and the little side ponytail. :)

  6. This is a central complaint in Dana Goia's essay "Can Poetry Matter?" - the solipsistic move away in public readings from other poets to oneself alone. In my extremely limited public reading experience -- essentially at coffeehouses while I was between bands a long time ago -- I read mostly other poets, which caused confusion and consternation in the audience. The bands I was in at that level could never do original material without a lot of covers, why is it so different with poems? It's like people were upset because they couldn't tell the difference between original and "classic" (live or Memorex) - instead of being excited and awed as I was by that prospect.

    You bring up a lot of good points here, Hannah, and I honor the care with which you support artists of all ice cream flavors. My motto has always been "everyone's a poet / I will read them", and modern technology accentuates that trend to challenge in all ways the "monopolies of authority."

    Oh, and I would, with gun locked to my head to choose just one, love to read "Nick and the Candlestick" by Sylvia Plath aloud to the entire world.

  7. In the 60s and 70s when I was still teaching at some Philippine universities, our poetry readings were far in between (even among our students). A mutual admiration society of sorts, however, we staged these readings in cafes, salons frequented by fellow writers, and schools that would invite us (if they wanted to see what a poet looked like!I was gaunt, all of 110 lbs. and looking every bit like the starving acamedic and writer, thank you). Back in the old country, today, the readings are rarely done anymore, not even in the schools. Guess where poetry was last heard from, or utilised? In the streets where protest movements blazed (and I remember them now, with the Arab Spring where poetry is being used for their revolution like Russia's Yevtushenko did), but literature in the classroom withered and died a lonely death (and sneered at as a useless major, even among would-be teachers. I quit, came to Canada, and found the same situation, in a sadly advanced sate). The Humanities courses continue to muck through this moribund path, and a lot of these arts courses are being discontinued by starved universities. Can the Dark Ages stage a comeback? Not with poets like you in the States, soldiering on. Here in Canada, only the readings of Margaret Atwood could excite people; then, when they are done with her, they ask questions about her politics instead. (Oh, I still read my poems aloud to myself and occasionally to my curious grandkids, and they say they sound like prayers and songs. Many sad ones, too. Then, they go back to their cyber games.)
    Bravo, for your efforts, Hannah!

  8. Thanks so much for these comments, everyone---this discussion is fascinating.

    Bill, I so agree that blurring the lines between "original and classic" is what keeps art alive!! And the Plath is a great choice.

    Albert, what an interesting response, and implications about art/politics/what is "important" where.

  9. oooh look at you hannah, you're so gorgeous - LOVE the hair AND the poem :)


  10. We have an annual Poetry Sunday at church and people get up and read or recite their favorites!


The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.