you say tomato..

Someone read a poem I wrote and interpreted it in a way that transcended my intent. It was a beautiful interpretation and hung together very nicely on its own terms and with the text. Did I misread it? Is that what you meant? the person asked.

I didn’t answer in any meaningful way, I didn’t think I should.

It occurs to me that poems and their readers are like the two players on either side of a log xylophone, each playing a different melody. If everything comes together as it should – if the players are mutually aware and mutually sensitive -, they work in counterpoint, “slipping notes in the gaps of each other’s parts” and out of that (it always seems so miraculous to me) the audience begins to hear a third melody, knocking and throbbing and hanging out there in a phantom-like but very moving way.

No-one “wrote” the third melody. It is born of the interaction between the two players.

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

3 thoughts on “you say tomato..”

  1. “slipping notes in the gaps of each other’s parts”

    Where is that quote from? I googled but couldn’t find it exactly other than here.

    Yes, I love that place, the third melody (excellent name for it too). The universality that a poem can display, that it is open to, and allows, makes room for that place. That is where art lives.

  2. I believe that misreading is the result of bad writing and/or poor reading.
    Seeing as you a good writer and your reader’s interpretation of your poem was “hung together very nicely on its own terms and with the text”, I would say that it (the interpretation) was an alternative reading and not a misreading.

    I like your “third melody” anaogy.


  3. Vicky — Not sure why I had the inverted commas there. I think I was at least partially quoting myself — I wrote a poem once that was supposed to be about the third melody, although I don’t think it quite got there. That phrase was based on research I did on xylophones, I think — would have to look back to be sure.

    David — Alternative reading is nice! Very nice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s