Welcome To Poetry Fridays

Posted on by Dodge

Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry

Nigerian-born poet and novelist CHRIS ABANI has said that poets were originally shamans and seers. What better way to launch Poetry Fridays in National Poetry Month than by honoring poetry’s deep roots in the oral tradition? Take a few moments to simply listen to Abani read his poems before reading further.

A video recording of a poetry reading eliminates one of the key differences between reading a poem on the page, where you have the luxury of rereading it as often as you wish, and hearing it at a live reading, where it goes by only once.

There is an ancient tradition, which some living poets also honor, of reciting the same poem more than once at a reading so it can be heard a second time. The video recording of Chris Abani gives you the opportunity to hear him read his poems two, three, or as many times as you’d like.

You can go back and “rehear” the poem just as you would reread a written text, and revisit particular phrases, lines or passages. As with rereading, rehearing reveals layers and nuances easy to miss at first, not only in the poem itself, but in Abani’s voice, delivery, and expression.

It is the human connection that makes hearing a poet read aloud his or her own poem a unique experience. One of the beauties of the Dodge Poetry Archive samplers now on YouTube is the intimacy of the footage. What could be more human than the marvelous expression in Abani’s eyes as he begins his reading?

Indeed, Abani’s own warmth and humor add much to the poems he reads, especially considering the brutality of some images in “Histories, #1.” Once we know something about Chris Abani’s biography, we marvel that someone who endured political persecution, imprisonment and torture could be this man who writes and speaks with such tenderness and compassion toward others and toward the world.

The published text of “Geography Lesson” can be found in Chris Abani’s Dog Woman, and “The New Religion” in Hands Washing Water. “Histories, #1” will appear in a forthcoming volume.

Be sure to revisit us on upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead, including Coleman Barks, Lucille Clifton, Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Martín Espada and others.

Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry

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9 Responses to Welcome To Poetry Fridays

  1. Abani’s talk of his body confirms a long suspicion I have about my own body:That we have parts speaking in their own dialect and language: That what seems a whole is a broken vase each wit a particular geography claiming independence from the brain and any form of centralization. It’s not anarchy, it’s an unfolding conversation.

  2. Linda Ring says:

    Thank you for inviting me to this blog and for making the festival’s videos available here. Regrettably, I was unable to attend last year, and this helps ease the pain. 🙂

    I was moved by Chris Abani’s “Geography Lesson” and “Histories, #1.” “Let there be love.”

    On a side note, recently I was invited to read a poem in a friend’s wedding, which took place last night. My friend (an English teacher) was not really fond of poetry until I exposed her to the humorous poems of Ogden Nash, then some love poems after she fell in love with her future husband. Because I find that many people are not receptive to poetry, I was excited to be able to share a poem at the wedding. The bride chose Rilke’s “Love Song.”

    I’m a special education teacher, and I’ve been able to share my love for poetry in the classes of English teachers with whom I’ve co-taught. Not all English teachers like poetry…surprise! I’m not co-teaching in English this year, but I’ve had some of our former students approach me and say, “Remember when you read that poem…what was that poet’s name?” It’s very satisfying to know that I made a connection with a poetry-loving student who otherwise may not have heard any poems read aloud that school year. I encourage all teachers who love poetry to share their enthusiasm for it because there are students out there who want to hear it!

  3. I am creating a workshop for men. Histories #1 speaks directly to the kind of reality existing within us. Never before so articulatly, beautifullly, aesthetically put but none-the-less what we can know and relate to as men.

    How do we deal with this knowledge and ability in us? Also, how do we look upon the “training” or cultural perspective from, toward and inside men? I believe a powerful way for us to learn and grow through what forces are present for us is in poetry like this and the coming together of men to engage in it.

  4. Although I write, and read constantly, I have never been especially interested in poetry. In my arts-oriented high school, many of the students in my English class engaged with the teacher in animated conversation about poetry, ardently discussing the symbolism. I sat there and thought, “Why don’t they just SAY it!?” (So did my big sister, I found out years later.) Now I find that I am sometimes touched by poetry. I was intrigued by the written introduction to Abani’s lovely reading – the comparison between hearing it read aloud as opposed to reading it on the page. As a musician, I have thought a lot about how — unless you can hear the music in your head as you read a score — the music doesn’t come to life until it’s performed, i.e. played or heard aloud. With poetry, assuming the ability to read words, there are 3 ways to absorb it: by reading silently, reading aloud and hearing it read. In classical music, most of us cannot fully “hear” it silently, but are limited to playing it or hearing it played. I never thought of that before. Must think about it more. Thank you for tilting my perspective.

  5. You mention the difference between the in-person reading of a poem and its on-page appearance. I’m wondering if you might be able to scroll the poems on the screen (here on the blogsite) as the author reads them.

    The appearance of a poem in print makes a difference to me. I learn more of the poet’s intention this way, and this part does not come through in the video clips. What do you think, GRDF? Can you show us both?

    Thanks for doing this, not so by-the-way.

  6. Well, this is grand! Now we can have the Dodge Poetry every single day, not only in alternate years, if ever…

    As one who writes about the Festival for Princeton media,
    I salute this continuation, this bridge
    to our mecca, our nirvana,
    which can fade to dream in the interim…

    I strongly agree with fellow poet, Ralph Copleman – it is essential for me to behold the shape of the poem. Please?

    I’ve been attending US 1 Poets and Delaware Valley Poets for years, and am co-founder of Princeton’s Cool Women Poets. We spend intense hours, –some weekly, some monthly–, on the look of the poem on the page. This design has everything to do with meaning and impact.

    Readers should not be denied the visual aspects, even as you brilliantly gift us with auditory resonances.

    Carolyn Foote Edelmann

  7. Martin Farawell says:

    It is deeply rewarding to read so many thoughtful responses to this first Poetry Fridays posting. Chris Abani’s poems resonate in the listener on many levels. It is interesting to note how many of the responses address the experience of reading aloud or listening to poems. For some, this is a revelation; for others, it summons memories of important personal occasions when they either read or heard poems aloud.

    For those who ask that we provide the printed text we reply that we will continue to allow these video segments to stand on their own. We do so in the hope of providing a small window into the experience of attending the Dodge Poetry Festival itself. For this brief moment, the listener has the opportunity to deeply engage with the poet and poem through the medium of the poet’s voice.

    Ezra Pound wrote that a poem is a shape cut into time as a sculpture is a shape cut into space. Because they can be replayed, these video samples offer the opportunity to fully hear the auditory shape of the poems.

    We would be very pleased to learn that, as after a poetry reading, a poem heard through this blog stayed with our listeners until some felt compelled to go in search of the text. Such a search could lead them to learn more about Chris Abani, to discover some of his other poems and his novels. If it leads them to eagerly anticipate the publication of his next poetry collection to obtain a printed copy of “Histories, #1,” all the better.

    Martin Farawell
    Program Director, Poetry

  8. Sari Grandstaff says:

    Poetry Fridays is wonderful. However, YouTube vidoes are blocked by the filters in the school district where I work. Many other public schools also cannot access YouTube at school and so we cannot share these videos with students. If you could consider Photobucket, which does come in at school, or TeacherTube or some other video hosting website, that would allow us to share the videos from Dodge Poetry Festival with our students in school. You will come across this issue at many institutions. There are other free video hosting websites. Thank you.

  9. […] your students to visit the Poetry Fridays blog and the Dodge YouTube channel. Allow them to let their own curiosity and interest be their […]

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