Poetry Friday: What do you mean by “giving voice”?

Posted on by Rebecca Gambale

Lately you may have heard us referring to Giving Voice, a series of poetry exploration groups and part of our Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain program for New Jersey teachers. But “giving voice” is also an overarching theme of the Dodge Poetry Program, a thread running through all of our programs; it is important in these sessions for teachers, in mini-festivals for students, and on all of the stages of the Dodge Poetry Festival.

So what does “giving voice” mean?

Have you ever had the same meal prepared by two different chefs? Heard the same song sung by two different singers? Seen two photographs of the same scene taken by two different photographers?

When two individuals read the same poem aloud, they bring their individual experience to the words. They bring their attention and, most apparently, their voice. And from there, from the reader to the audience, there is a shared experience of hearing these words from that particular person, who brings their whole entire life up to that point to those words.

In one session, I heard an Emily Dickinson poem I’ve heard countless times throughout my life read aloud by a teacher who identified with it strongly. When she read the title of the poem, I thought I knew what to expect from this poem. But I was wrong. The way I experienced the poem was completely different than when I read it to myself because her voice conveyed the deep connection she had with the work. The poem was brand new because her reading showed her careful attention, and the words took on the feeling she had for the poem. It transformed a poem I thought I knew into a poem I had never heard before.

At the Common Gathering, the culminating event of our Spring and Fountain series, the first session which teachers take part in is called Giving Voice. Small groups led by Dodge Poets are given a packet of unattributed poems compiled by the Poetry Program staff and Dodge Poets, which is distributed that morning and has not been seen by anyone prior to arrival. After looking through the packet, participants select the poem they would most like to read aloud. The packet is full of poems which could be embraced by different voices, different experiences, different individuals – a range of styles and tones, with the hope that every participant can find something that moves them. Within these groups, each person reads their selected poem. It is an exercise in both reading aloud and active listening for the other members of the group.

We thought we’d share with you the list of poems from our most recent Giving Voice packet, for those of you who weren’t at the Common Gathering. These poems are not just for teachers, or for people who have attended Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain in the past, they are for everyone. We hope you enjoy.

Giving Voice Packet Attributions

  1. Face Poem by Dorianne Laux
  2. Mortal Combat by Ron Padgett
  3. Poem in Thanks by Thomas Lux
  4. Hummingbird by Dorianne Laux
  5. Lizards, Wind, Sunshine, Apples by Gary Snyder
  6. Ghostology by Rebecca Lindenberg
  7. In Your Honor by Arthur Sze
  8. Meditation on Living in the Desert, No.2 by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  9. beauty gone by Charles Bukowski
  10. His Wife by Shirley Kaufman
  11. from Clearances 5 by Seamus Heaney
  12. Father’s Song by Gregory Orr
  13. Stranger by Idra Novey
  14. Child on Top of a Greenhouse by Theodore Roethke
  15. Pillowcase with Praying Mantis by Henri Cole
  16. Midsummer by William Bronk
  17. In Memory: After a Friend’s Sudden Death by Denise Levertov
  18. from A Teacher Looks Back by Carl Dennis
  19. Bus Stop by Donald Justice
  20. Detail of the Woods by Richard Siken
  21. How It Was Once in Our Country by Eavan Boland
  22. Litany by Rebecca Lindenberg
  23. Marblehead by Rebecca Lindenberg
  24. Fear of Happiness by A.E. Stallings
  25. The Pleasures of Merely Circulating by Wallace Stevens
  26. The Art of Contraction by Dan Pagis, translated by Stephen Mitchell

If you are a teacher and would like a PDF version of this packet in its entirety for educational purposes only, please contact us at festival@grdodge.org.

One Response to Poetry Friday: What do you mean by “giving voice”?

  1. Giving voice to poems that pluck one’s own emotional chords — such an important, worthy cause! (One of my poetry pals forwarded this blog post to me.). I remember the first time I heard Shakespeare read in an expressive Southern accent…

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