To call me a fan of poetry audio files would be understatement with almost as much dead air as an HTMLess Internet.
The poetry at qarrtsiluni is deserving special applause for its regular audio content these days! Every single poem I read for myself, whether online or offline, I do always read it out loud at least once, for the sound and feel of how the work sounds in my own throat and tongue and to my ear. But I don’t know any of the foreign languages being explored under qarrtsiluni’s current theme (translation), and even I don’t really appreciate hearing myself try to struggle through sounds even a pentacostal apostle would cringe at, so hearing the qarrtsiluni podcasts is a rare pleasure!
Even when my commute schedule has synchronized with NPR’s broadcast, I listen online to every single daily audio reading of The Writer’s Almanac; and since they’ve had the wise choice to switch to mp3 format, I download every day’s audio file for playback. The Poetry Foundation is not present each and every day and they don’t always supply a written version, but their Poem of the Day (as well as their other audio and podcast content congregating at their audio landing) also gets play and download here. Ditto when Rattle adds sound to its daily poetry traffic. And I celebrate the recent return of Clarica’s readings at Poetry Moment.
I can get lost exploring PennSound and LibriVox, pulling it From the Fishouse, tuning into Poets on Poets. I even take time to bump around the poetry audio files stored at the Internet Archive. And numerous other sites that I visit and explore and so easily get caught spending countless hours listening while I read.
Yes, I do also listen in when a site like Poets.org delivers sound. But they and several others don’t make it easy to sync over to my mp3 players. Or am I the only one who does that? Yes, among the 4850 selections on my main mp3 device, a Zen Vision M:, are several hundred poetry readings. But when Kelly graduated to one of the latest generation iPods, I inherited his Zen Micro, the 8gig of which I’ve now devoted 100% to poetry – no music, no other podcasts, just pure poetry. Not only that, but the expansion card on my Garmin (also inherited from Kelly) – which plays mp3 files – carries several hundred poetry readings to the road for me. So when I’m doing chores while tuning into my mp3 player or driving for hours to my next meeting (or sometimes even the rare times I can be found exercising), more than likely I’ve got poetry piped into the background.
Yes, I still never want to do without seeing the words on a page or on a screen (or carved in stone, or written on the sky, or wherever). And there’s always a moment and purpose for doing a partial derivative, to borrow a math metaphor from my college days – for doing only a silent sight reading, letting it all focus in the mind from just that visual communication. But I’d never want to leave it at just that, not with any poem (even the most concrete). I want to hear it out loud, in the poet’s own voice (like, no matter how good the cover, nobody but nobody deals a “Hallelujah” like Leonard), as well as by others (I do like how variations bring out the depth in a word; besides, a true poem never belongs only to the poet, but also to whom the poem comes). And I like hearing it come through my own voice, on my own breath. And yes, I do like youtube and other video outlets for the poetry readings and other visual delivery, not to mention the websites that work with experimental poetry that stretches limits of the Internet’s blessings on visual and audio poetic style. Hell, if they could give us full virtual reality, I’d want the file format that could give me a poem so completely, that when the poet coughs while walking though the rain on a deserted city street, I’d shiver at how cold the rain is and smell how the wet stirred up the day’s most recent traffic and feel how the wet soaks through my thin coat and turn my face away from the wind as I sense more than see the light coming over my shoulder that makes me suspect a car has just turned a distant corner to threaten my solitude. I’d want all of that and then some.
But for now, I’ll take what I can get. Meaning every single mp3 file of poetry that I can collect on my laptop and stuff to my Zens and Garmin. As much as I do appreciate seeing and reading a poem, listening to poetry is indeed one of my favorite things.