Small Demon
Feb 042009

I was listening to the public radio program To the Best of Our Knowledge yesterday while driving home from the store — the theme was economics & I was intrigued by the teaser about poet Katy Lederer’s new book of poems about money. Unfortunately, I am unable to report on any of the poems in The Heaven-sent Leaf because of the phoney-baloney voice in which Lederer reads her work. During the interview portion of her segment, she spoke like a normal human being, but as soon as she began reading a poem, Lederer began intoning, her voice rising & falling in the most artificial way possible, a sybil in a smokey cave. I had to turn off the radio. Sharon Olds does this too, along with a host of other poets, and to me it reveals something about the writer’s attitude toward her language. Poets who read this way do not believe in the sentence, which means that they do not believe in predication; the result is an amorphous impressionism, a weak aestheticism. It makes me gag.

  4 Responses to “Fundamentally Dishonest”

  1. I swear Dylan Thomas had two voices when he read : the normal and the intoned. The former brings the language to life; the latter is laughably bad (like a Welsh Boris Karloff). I heard some of Lederer’s poems on another program. She was likable enough, but I just didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I’m grateful that although Stevens worked in insurance he didn’t write poems about the insurance business.

  2. Stevens did say somewhere that “money is a kind of poetry.” Or was that the other way around?

  3. Have you ever known a well off poet? A well off poetry magazine, well sure.

  4. Every poet should be forced to listen to at least one of their poems as read by William Shatner to help them break this habit.

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