Fundamentally Dishonest

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.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

4 thoughts on “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.

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