Dave Bonta makes a key point at Voice Alpha today. Yes, there are two separate ‘sound’ processes at play in the poetry process.
One is indeed the central awareness of sound that should reign during the composition process. Many/most of us seem to have a keen awareness and excellent practice in that regard.
But there is also sound in performance. What of that? Somewhere along the line we seem to have decided that sound in performance doesn’t matter all that much, really…. (Why Don’t They Teach Us To Read)?
Poetry is like steak, isn’t it? Everyone wants it served in a particular way.
We realized this at Whale Sound only a little bit after realizing that we have suddenly become a poetry-deliverer. Thanks in major part to the conversations at Voice Alpha and backroom exchanges with our, um, backroom consultants for Whale Sound . (You know who you are, guys – thanks!!).
So some tweaking has occurred at the site of Whale Sound‘s first audio chapbook publication – Heather Hummel’s Handmade Boats.
Some people like to tackle a chapbook slowly and methodically, beginning at the first entry and ending at the last. The main page is for you – it allows you to click your way through the poems, viewing text and hearing audio, one by one.
Some people want the whole text at their disposal all at once, to be able to skim forward, backwards, stop here and avoid there, with audio options when they choose. The ‘all text and audio on one long page‘ is for you.
Some people just want the text, forget the audio. They want text that is printable, physical, holdable. The PDF version is for you.
Some people don’t want any of the above, they just want a chapbook they can listen to on their iPod. The MP3 download is for you.
And some people want some or all of the above at different points in time – the text, the audio, the text and the audio, either, both, any.
Whale Sound is now accepting audio submissions for occasional guest-reader slots. If you would like to be considered for a guest-reader slot, please send in a 1-2 minute MP3 recording of yourself reading another web-active poet’s work. Guidelines here.
November 24, 2010: This time it was Jill’s turn to get side-tracked by life, but by now we’ve figured out that’s part of the whole process. And what’s the rush, anyway? Today I got the Forever Will End on Thursday manuscript back in the mail, all scrawled over with Jill’s wild beautiful handwriting, in three different shades of ink. Empress of editors! I think, after two years, we finally have a collection – a beautifully-edited collection!
Here are some process notes from the poet and the editor:
Heather’s experience: I have the habit of tinkering with poems for decades. The poems in Handmade Boats have been in metamorphosis for some time. All that is to say that working back and forth with Nic Sebastian as we did the final shaping of Handmade Boats for Whale Sound was both pleasurable and surprising, because the poems underwent subtle new transformations that I didn’t anticipate.
When I sat down at my desk each morning with a cup of tea, I looked forward to the penetrating questions I’d find in my email inbox. I’d tinker, she’d question, and we’d continue taking turns like that as we fine-tuned the pages. She tucked into the work with such insight it felt as if she was inside the poems with me. At moments, it seemed like we were in one of those plexiglass aquarium tubes where people can walk through and watch hammerhead sharks swimming overhead and on all sides. While I am used to being in the imaginative space of the poem by myself as I watch blue whales and toucans darting past, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in that artistic flow with another person.
As the narrative arc of the chapbook fell into place, the different poems’ narrators began to speak in chorus. I am in love with characters of Handmade Boats–the bagpiper, the bartender and the rubber boot man; I am close to the woman stranded on an island, the girl trapped in the ‘Automat’ and the women bathing in the mineral pools. The characters make up a small town now, a town filled with mythological figures and edged in wilderness.
Listening to the recordings of the poetry is a rare treat for me. The vocal performance reveals the everyday music that exists in our speaking life. Exploring the collection with Nic Sebastian as she gave her skillful voicing to the poems was like participating in a thrilling old-fashioned radio-theater program.
Nic’s experience: I knew as soon as I started reading her chapbook manuscript that Heather’s would be Whale Sound’s first audio chapbook. Knew it with my body rather than my head – with a visceral, physical reaction that I’m sure is familiar to every editor. A reaction based purely and immediately on the words and images presented – before I began to intellectualize about the ideas and themes that ran in her work.
There were basic initial things I knew easily and right away about the manuscript with just eyes & brain: the core work was solid and beautiful, and all that was required to tighten the poems up was the tweaking of a few words or lines here and there, the elimination of a stanza or two.
The deeper story that connected them I did not – could not – know until I had voiced the poems. Very early on, I made draft recordings – nothing good enough to share with Heather, but enough to get me into the skin of the poems (or get the poems into the skin of me). It was making these recordings, and listening to them, that brought me information, not just about the actual sound of the poems and their rhythm, but also about the bigger story – the emotional journey on record, the cross-tracking and cross-hitting themes and memes running through the poems. This in turn gave me very specific ideas about poem order, poem inclusion and poem titling.
It sounds like hocus-pocus, but this really was substantive information voice brought to the process for me. At one point, Heather suggested adding three new poems to the group and asked whether I thought they would work in the group. I said (feeling very lame in my response) that they looked like good additions on the face of it, but I could not really tell until I had voiced the poems. And when I did, I knew quite certainly – and quickly – that two were good additions, while the third was best left to another collection.
I’ve said previously that voice is an organ of investigation – a sense like touch or sight that brings you information – and believe that all the more strongly after this experience.
I’ve loved working with Heather – much enjoyed her maturity and range as an artist, her openness as a human being and the vibrant exchanges we have had as author and editor – and am honored to have had even a small role in bringing these wonderful poems of hers to a wider audience. Thank you, Heather!
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS):The sound of your exceptional voice reading my poem from five years ago brought it to life again, revived and incantatory. I was struck smiling as I listened. Your reading gave the poem the sense of gravity I felt it had when I wrote it.
b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: Choosing to focus on web-active poets, WS is helping to even the field between print and the web’s boisterous vitality. Print is necessarily a more restricted audience. As an editor, WS is exercising the vital function of giving some recognition to writers that might be lost in the welter.
More is More, after all, but finding the gems is sometimes harder with the whole world readily at hand.
c. The WS third-party submissions policy: It’s a quite a generous thing and rather extraordinary for an editor to open the process up like that. I think anyone would be pleased to have their work recommended and be given the ability to recommend deserving work in turn.
2. What does WS do well? What WS does well is its revival of previously published work, giving poems another life and a wider audience, and having a beautiful resident voice.
3. What could WS do better? I appreciate that the poems are archived, but, from a reader standpoint, I had hoped poems would stay up longer. As an editor, such a rapid turnover must be hard to manage, given the expanding activities of said editor. I know that you’re cutting the postings from two to one a day, but with a blog and now audio chapbooks, that’s still a monumental schedule, is it not? How will you have time for your next five projects? (Editor’s note: You mean like Voice Alpha?? It’s been grueling, but it’s work I enjoy and I’m beginning to find the rhythm and pace needed to keep it all going. The Whale Sound postings go down to one per weekday next week, which will ease things a lot.)
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): This was the first time I’ve ever had an auditory publication, so to speak, so the idea that my poem could become an acoustic object outside of my own writing life is something I had not previously considered. I like thinking of the poem making its own sound as it moves into the world. And hearing it in another poet’s voice gives me the rare sense of collaboration – something I experienced when I played in a band but not when I’m sitting alone at my desk. I enjoyed hearing Nic’s interpretation, how she added her own pauses and inflections in places I had not considered. Her creative input somehow made the poem larger, or perhaps wider is a better word.
b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I’m of two minds about this decision. First, a publication should have complete autonomy when choosing its aesthetic. In other words, Nic Sebastian/Whale Sound is putting a lot of work into developing a fresh kind of web presence for contemporary poetry, and she should pursue this undertaking however she sees fit. Yet, I worry about exclusion, about poets who are writing fine poems but are not necessarily web active. Should we as readers and listeners overlook these writers? Is this kind of stance in any way similar to the not-so-long ago view that print journals held towards online publications, where the former sort of scoffed at the latter as inconsequential in the larger context of lit publishing? Perhaps these are questions we should mull over as we place our own poems and publish the works of others.
c. The WS third-party submissions policy: Love it. This is a great way to share poems that haunt and inspire us, a way of turning others on to new work and opening a dialogue between poets about precedent and reading.
2. What does WS do well? WS has built a virtual and welcoming inn of sorts, with many windows and doors through which poets can enter and congregate with one another. It’s an important community, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
3. What could WS do better? I’d love to see a some selections paired with visual art, or perhaps a special section devoted to poems that are somehow connected to paintings and photographs made by other artists. Moving from sound to image seems like a natural progression for Whale Sound.
4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? Invigorating. Unexpected. Divine.
Voice Alpha is a companion site to Whale Sound. It grew out of the Whale Sound experience, which underlined the fact that there are very few resources online specifically focused on assisting poets to build or hone their ability to effectively read poetry aloud for an audience.
Voice Alpha is a repository for thoughts, theories, suggestions, likes and dislikes and anything else related to the art and science of reading poetry aloud for an audience. It’s meant to be a community effort. If you would like to guest-blog at Voice Alpha, or have any material you think might be a useful addition to the site, please email nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com.
I’ve been comparing poets to musicians/composers, noting that the latter undergo rigorous formal training for two complementary aspects of music-craft – a) how to create a score on paper – essentially, a visual artefact – and b) how to master the musical instrument (s) that turn the score into an aural artefact.
Now I’m wondering why it is that for poets, the vast majority of tradecraft emphasis goes to the first part only — mastering the craft that creates the poem-as-text, the visual artefact — while very little attention goes to the second part: mastering the instrument (voice/body) that turns the poem into poem-as-voice, the aural artifact?
This is very obviously not to assert that existing poetry tradecraft does not consider sound. Far from it. We all know from workshops, reading and study what careful emphasis should ideally be placed on addressing the sound element while composing poetry – including the importance of reading work aloud as it is written – and many (many!) books have been written containing formal wisdom on sound and how to manipulate/understand it in poetry.
What I’m talking about, though, is the physical tradecraft associated with reading-as-performance for poets. Starting up the Whale Sound project and lacking such formal training myself, I spent a lot of time looking for reading-as-performance wisdom for poets on the internet. It seems there’s almost nothing out there. (If I’ve overlooked anything, am happy to stand corrected.)
There’s a ton of information out there for other voice performances – for singers, actors and speakers. How to warm up and protect your voice; how to breathe correctly; how to stand correctly; how to project your voice; how to find the right singing or speech coach for you; how to relate to your audience. Much of it is relevant and/or adaptable for poets (although some of it is actively wrong for poets, in my view), but almost none of it is directed specifically at poets.
What does that mean? Do we poets as a community assume that honed poetry-writing skills automatically translate into honed poetry-reading skills – that the ability to write good poems comes packaged with the ability to read them aloud well? Or do we simply not care enough about the value of reading-as-performance for poetry and are collectively ok with a wing-it/seat-of-the-pants/take-it-or-leave-it approach when it comes to reading poetry for an audience? There are certainly many naturally-talented performers/readers out there, but surely there are also many many more poets who would really benefit from a discussion of different approaches and key considerations for the poet reading-as-performer.
I’m cross-posting this at Voice Alpha, a new blog that will focus only on reading-as-performance tradecraft for poets and hopefully in time grow into a some sort of resource for the community.
If you would like to guest-blog at Voice Alpha on any topic related to reading-as-performance for poets, please email nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com.
(Note: This is a topic I discussed with Dave Bonta during the recent Woodrat podcast in which he interviewed me aboutWhale Sound. I’ll be writing one or two more posts that pick up on other topics we discussed.)
1. Please comment on the following:a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): Your musicality made it a memorable experience for me. You have quite an instrument there, and your interpretation of Shelter was every bit as full of nuance as I could have wished.
b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: This makes sense. Social media helps us gather a bigger audience, and the permanence of our work once it’s on the web anchors its fast-moving aspects.
2. What does WS do well? The quality and variety of the poetry is an achievement in itself. I also like the layout of the site. It’s like a well-lit room, easily navigable.
3. What could WS do better? If it’s sometimes hard for me to keep up with the quantity of poetry, I can only imagine what it must be like for you! (Editor’s note: We know! This coming week is the last week we will be posting two poems a day – starting November 22, we’ll post one reading per weekday. We’re freeing up time to spend on the Whale Sound audio chapbooks initiative!)
4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to participate.
There is the poem-as-text/page and the poem-as-sound/voice. How do they relate to each other? When I started the Whale Sound project, I was feeling pretty anti-text (in fact, it was one of the reasons I embarked on the project, I should acknowledge) and for me it was all about taking the poem off the page and into the realm of just-sound. This conversation with David Tomaloff (reproduced here with his permission) helped sharpen my thinking in this regard, and am reproducing it below as part of the Whale Sound process notes. It is also referenced in the Woodrat Podcast on Whale Sound posted today at Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa. (Thanks, Dave!)
The conversation started when poet David Tomaloff (who writes in the experimental vein) submitted poems – here, here and here – to Whale Sound as part of the regular submissions process. I was intrigued, but flummoxed, by the submissions, as you will read below.
David to Nic — I have just come across Whale Sound and would be very interested in your reading any one of my poems. Whale Sound is an incredibly interesting idea to me. I am a musician who has more recently been focusing more and more on poetic works. A small amount of my work has been represented through print media but I have been somewhat selective, much preferring to submit to on-line journals.
I have found that many poets tend to shy away from anything that does not resemble the paper and staple format, though, many of these poets will often complain that it is difficult to get people to read their poetry. This seems contradictory to me, as I believe that anyone who wishes to connect with people (particularly concerning things that people are not especially aware of), will find it most beneficial to use those means of communication that are most commonly used by people on a daily basis. In modern terms, we are talking about the internet and, more specifically, social networking.
That said, much of my recent published work has been of the more experimental persuasion but I’d love for you to have a look at a few examples and decide if you might be able to make any of it work for you. Particularly, I could imagine you taking on the first poem in the first link above, American Vernacular.
Nic to David - One of the reasons I started this project was to push my own poetry boundaries and understanding, so I am very glad and interested to hear from you. That said, I have to admit I am very much at a loss vis a vis your poems. To me they seem wedded to the page in a way more mainstream work is not. One of the things I enjoy most about Whale Sound is that it takes the poem off the page and reliance on text, and constructs (re-constructs?) it separately in the realm of just-sound. And generally it is a straightforward process to create an audio poem entity – poem-as-sound/voice – that stands independently of poem-as-text/page. Looking at your poems, however, I find myself somewhat flummoxed. The page and the text arranged on the page just so seem in essential ways to be the poem. How to separate the poem from page/text without destroying it?
I think what I am saying is that I don’t understand enough about experimental poetry yet to tackle your work. But I am interested and willing to learn. Are you able to point me to any audio of experimental poetry readings I might learn from (including any of your own)?
David to Nic – I totally understand if you don’t feel comfortable tackling the work. This sort of work might seem a bit “personalized.” That said, one of the many things that draws me to this sort of work is that it is often able to speak in a language that is altogether its own.
Regarding the text being wedded to the page….I don’t necessarily see it that way at all. I do agree that it might be one aspect, but the interpretation can be done in almost any way one might feel the words “translate” for them. One could choose to read simply in strings of words as they would appear conventionally, one could dramatically sound things out for purposes of implication, or one could even leave certain aspects out of the reading altogether. For instance, in the first link I gave you (from ditch poetry), I think the first poem, “American Vernacular,” reads pretty well straight through. EXCEPT! I wouldn’t read the “bulleted” bits (a. b. a. b. 3. ). I would interpret those as pauses….as I might the en dashes.
As a rough example, I am attaching to this email a new poem along with a “trial” reading I gave it. I think it might serve to illustrate how the text and its reading can be interpreted very differently.
David’s reading of what is tense:
As far as some of my favorites, I’m a big fan of the works of poets like Andrew Zawacki, Felino A. Soriano, and J.D. Nelson. I believe they all do varying degrees of “experimental” quite well and can be found pretty easily around the internet. Andrew Zawacki exudes a particular confidence and sense of implication that I greatly admire in his reading style.
I should point out I’m no expert on any of this by any means….I just do what appeals to me and sort it out later.
Nic to David – Thanks for sending me your audio for what is tense. I realize, of course, that there are as many interpretations of any one poem as there are readers of that poem, but here’s my own reaction: It felt to me that you took this at a galloping pace in your vocalization, while the text, in my view, is not laid out that way – my personal sense was that there is nothing ‘galloping’ about the text. My take is that to match your reading, the text would have to be squished up tight against itself and all running together — not long drawn out and lazy/deliberate as it is. How does that strike you?
Here is the Nic version, as I heard the instruction of the text:
The reading is somewhat stilted but quite inevitable, in my view — I did this three times and for me the timing, pauses and extensions were about equivalent in all three versions. For me, there are definitely strong audio imperatives in the text as presented on the page, even though am not yet sure how they come together as a cohesive emotional narrative.
David to Nic – I really appreciate your taking the time to share with me your take on the poem. Frankly, I was more than a little impressed with it. I can understand where you might not have agreed on my reading of the piece. Your points are well taken….and my response is simply that, for me, while I can absolutely respect that there is a school of thought that says reading and presenting should be closely intertwined, I still believe in the idea that it does not have to be necessarily so.
I believe in a sort of duality to this work. In one sense, this type of poem could be thought of as a piece of visual art. While in another, it is still a collection of words I believe can live beyond any single medium. I think of it in terms of how someone like Bob Dylan interprets his own songs from record to stage – the two can differ quite vastly and someone will almost always inevitably say, “that’s not how it’s supposed to go.” They are both right from their particular standpoints. I guess that’s part of what I love about art.
When I read the poem, I was working off of the idea that it read something like a letter to someone – a letter one might write out of a sense of duty in an almost guarded fashion, hence the way in which I approached the word “ambiguous”— as if it were an antithesis to “with love” or “yours truly.” That said, I absolutely admit it was a bit rushed…damn my over caffeinated lifestyle!
Not surprisingly, your rendition of it brought out another dimension for me. I remember reading on your site a comment about how one reader didn’t understand the full potential of his poem until he heard you read it. I can completely relate to that. You brought out all of the nervous “ticks” in this poem. What you call stilted in this case, I call a certain “uneasy tension” or trepidation. The irony might be that, for you, despite your reading, the piece did not come together as a cohesive emotional narrative, whereas, for me it finally did.
Nic to David – I do understand what you mean and in general, I have to say I agree with you. In many cases I find that the imperatives of the vocalized narrative simply override the presentation of text – stanzas and linebreaks that work well on the page often actually turn out to be either meaningless or actual stumbling blocks in the context of vocalization. In fact, sometimes, for reading purposes, I actually rearrange the text of a poem to suit the way I feel the narrative is asking to be read, and in those cases the poem-as-page on which I base my reading often ends up looking like nothing the original text. But I ask myself why this ‘text override’ function (which you employ in your reading) didn’t kick in for me with what is tense. I’m guessing it’s a function of my unfamiliarity with reading poems such as yours, where there is such a high degree of deliberation and precision in the placing of each letter on the page. Could be it’s the focus on letters that has thrown me and somehow disabled the ‘text override’ function for me, putting the piece on a different level, in my view as a reader. And having broken it down to that extent, I begin to wonder whether differentiating between whole words and individual letters is in fact a helpful way to go at all.
David to Nic – I should reiterate that I do not in any way claim to be an authority on any of this. I can speak only for myself and my own work. I should also point out that, while I do love a heavy dose of the surreal, I do not necessarily label myself an experimental poet in any strict sense. The fact is that this particular type of work tends to present itself to me much in the fragmented fashion it appears on the page and my sense is simply to follow its lead.
That said, I believe we are both right and can still stand to learn a great deal from the factors that shape our respective takes on this subject. As I said earlier in this correspondence, that’s part of what I love most about art.
Nic to David – Thanks for your patience, David! This has been a complicated submission for you! Whale Sound will be happy to take a shot at your poem, American Vernacular and we’ll put it on the slate. Thanks again!
Next week will be the last week of two-poems-a-day on Whale Sound . The week of November 29, we’ll start publishing just one poem per weekday. Mainly because we want to free up some time to work on the new Whale Sound project — audio chapbooks! More details here – go ahead and submit!
1. Please comment on the following:a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): It’s enlightening to hear someone else read my poem, particularly someone with Nic’s amazing voice. It’s not how I would have read it and I like that. It helped me to see that the poem and poems in general, at their best, are not static, but mutable. I’m grateful. One always hopes that the poem is more than even the writer knows.
b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I love it! It’s a way to showcase a lot of wonderful work, partly because there’s less upfront work for Nic since the poems can already be found online and linked to, and partly because there is so much great work being done online that it’s difficult to find it. Nic is discriminating in her tastes so we get a lot of the best, I think. I don’t have time to wade through a lot of the dreck. I also like that I’m discovering terrific voices that probably don’t have a chance to be heard in the very limited pages of journals.
2. What does WS do well? Well, the voice for one thing, but that goes without saying. And Whale Sound is both a poetic and apt name—we are calling to each other across this vast cyber ocean. The concept is genius. Thanks, Nic! I wish I’d thought of it.
3. What could WS do better? Right now, and perhaps this is just my computer, if I open the poem text, I can’t listen to the poem read and vice versa. It would be helpful to have the poem text open in a separate new window so I can read while I’m listening.
Whale Sound is fairly new so I’m thinking that time may take care of how many listeners it gets each day, but with good marketing, I see this as becoming an audio Poetry Daily. The goal should be that we all have Whale Sound as our home page and listen to a poem every morning. I have no words of wisdom as to how to make that happen except for all the writers to “sing” about WS through the cyber ocean and hope that the chorus grows. (Ed: )
4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? Waving my flukes in thanks!
1. Please comment on the following:a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): I’ve heard other people interpret my work, including on my spoken word album HalfLife Crisis, but hearing After Adultery read in a lovely, lilting accent with a different cadence, rhythm and pronunciation was a revelation to me. And that revelation was that Nic Sebastian should read all my poetry.
b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I think Whale Sound’s decision to focus on web active poets is genius. Whether the academic types like it or not, the future of literary magazines and written poetry is on the web. The writing is on the wall…errr…iPad. The poets who are active online are dynamic, forward thinking writers and they have becoming savvy at finding readers and community.
c. The WS third-party submissions policy: I think it brings a bit of democracy to the table. People can nominate the poems and poets they love and it doesn’t turn into a narcissism fest.
2. What does WS do well? The site is elegantly simple, easy to navigate, easy to listen to and easy to share with others.
3. What could WS do better? I can’t think of anything at the moment. It seems to be going swimmingly.
4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? It really is a treat to get the email alerts and see who Whale Sound is featuring. Some of my favorite poets have been featured and I’m going to submit a few poets myself very soon. So watch out!
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): I must admit that hearing you read my poem was a bit of a shock. It is an older poem, and I have heard it in my voice for so long that I barely recognized it. I even doubted for a moment that I wrote it! The experience of hearing your work read by others is always interesting, but your careful and thoughtful reading made me experience the poem in a new way. I am often very hard on myself when creating new work – your reading was a wonderful sort of affirmation that the work is worthwhile.
b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I think it is great! Like it or not, the web has become the way that many of us (including myself) are exposed to new poems and poets, and most poets maintain some sort of web presence for networking and/or promotions. Although I love print, I can only afford to subscribe to a few journals a year. I am much more likely to come across new poets/poems on web journals or through my feed reader.
c. The WS third-party submissions policy: I love this aspect of the project. My only dilemma has been deciding which poems/poets to suggest to you! I think it would be a great compliment to know that someone liked a poem enough to want to hear it read and archived somewhere. Sometimes promoting the work of other poets can become a little (for lack of a better word) incestuous, with little clusters of bloggers or geographically-grouped writers cross-promoting only each other. This offers the opportunity for writers to branch out, to say, “I loved this poem – I would love to hear what Nic would do with it.”
2. What does WS do well? I’m truly not sucking up when I say just about everything. The interface is easy, providing direct access to both the recording and the original link to the text, as well as other ways to find the poet online. This helps to continue the experience the listener has on Whale Sound by offering additional opportunities to hear/view the writer’s work. And the recordings are not only high-quality, they are well-practiced and offer nuance and interpretation that open my mind as a reader to work that may not have caught my eye on the page. Online communities (like the now -defunct ReadWritePoem or its offspring Big Tent Poetry) provide ways for poets to connect, especially those of us who work full-time in non-literary professions. Whale Sound adds another voice (a wonderful, elegant one) to the poetry landscape of the internet. I always have time to listen to a poem, even if I don’t have time to scan online journals for new work or visit my favorite blogs.
3. What could WS do better? So far, I really can’t think of anything. Perhaps create a badge that Whale Sound poets could use on their own blogs to promote you? You have done so much to put our work in the world that we could return the favor…
4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? I try to be especially attentive to sound when I write, so the regular experience of hearing poetry read aloud so well has only served to confirm my interest in this aspect of writing. I look forward to listening to every new post.
1. Please comment on the following:
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): I loved it! You actually pronounced my maiden name, Guthrie, incorrectly. I didn’t tell you, though, because I adored the way it sounded. You made me feel exotic, and it’s not often that one feels exotic when hearing one’s own name. I like to walk around now pretending my maiden name is pronounced the way you said it — that first syllable with the gooey-chewy center your pronunciation bestows. (Ed: We apologize, Dana! That was in the early days, before we learned to be much more careful about asking people how their name is pronounced. If you want us to go back and correct it, just say the word!)
And of course the way you read the entire poem was outstanding. I hate to say people are born to do this or that or be this or that, but I think you might have been born to — at least among other things — read poems aloud and edit a sound-based literary journal. Has that thought crossed your mind, and does the possibility both excite and scare you? (Ed: *thinking*)
b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: Every time I see the phrase “web-active poets,” I misread it as “sex-active poets,” and then I think, “Where is Nic going to find any poets who are sexually active? I mean, let’s face it — poets aren’t getting any.” Then I realize what you actually mean, and it all makes a lot more sense. Yes! Focus on web-active poets. By all means.
c. The WS third-party submissions policy: This is something I have advocated for in various online spheres such as Facebook, and it is a practice I have undertaken for several years. If I (really, really) like someone’s work, and I know they haven’t been sending anything out, I will send some of their poems to a journal editor who I think would like their work, too. This probably annoys the editor in question, but I don’t care. Editors were born to be annoyed, so my actions are simply helping them do what they are already inclined to do.
I think all journals should adopt a third-party submission policy. I don’t see any reason not to accept work by those who appreciate it and want to see it out in the world, and I don’t see any reason for poets to not forward the fantastic work they read — as much as, if not more than, they forward their own work. We’re not here to advance ourselves, at least that’s not the only reason we are here. We are here to advance poetry. We need to understand that our poetry isn’t the only poetry, and that our poetry isn’t the work that will always be showcased.
In my mind, there’s a kind of letting go, a kind of acknowledgment, in sending out someone else’s work. It’s a way of honoring the fact that there’s a sandbox and we’re not the only ones in it. I will say, however, that when I send out someone else’s work and it is rejected, that stings in a way that it doesn’t when my own work is rejected. Rejections of other people’s work can put me in a funk for days.
Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? I don’t actually think editors are born to be annoyed, and I don’t think all editors are in fact annoyed. I know many kind and patient ones who are never annoyed, at least not with me, at least not that I know of. You never seem to be annoyed, Nic. Even if you were, you would still have that lovely voice which would be a pleasure to listen to, no matter what tone it happens to carry. I also think all editors, especially those like you who volunteer your time, should be thanked for their work in supporting and promoting poetry. Thank you, Nic, for what you are doing for the poetry community and the larger community. (Ed: )