Welcome to our first SpokenWeb minisode. Each month on alternate fortnights (that’s every second week following the monthly spokenweb podcast episode) – join Hannah McGregor, and minisode host and curator Katherine McLeod for SpokenWeb’s Audio of Month mini series. This month Katherine shares a recording of Canadian poet Daryl Hine reading “Point Grey” (1967).
SpokenWeb’s Audio of The Month: ‘mini’ stories about how literature sounds.
An extension of Katherine’s audio-of-the-week series at spokenweb.ca, Katherine brings her favourite audio each month to The SpokenWeb Podcast.
Producer: Katherine McLeod
Executive Producer: Stacey Copeland
Host: Hannah McGregor
[Piano Overlaid With Distorted Beat]
Welcome to our first SpokenWeb minisode. Each month on alternate fortnights—that’s every second week following the monthly SpokenWeb Podcast episode—join me, Hannah McGregor, and minisode host and curator Katherine McLeod for SpokenWeb’s Audio of the Month miniseries. We’ll share with you specially curated audio clips from deep in the SpokenWeb archives. An extension of Katherine’s Audio of the Week series at spokenweb.ca, Katherine brings her favourite audio each month to the SpokenWeb Podcast. So if you love what you hear, make sure to head over to spokenweb.ca for more. Without further ado, here is Katherine McLeod with SpokenWeb’s inaugural Audio of the Month: ‘mini’ stories about how literature sounds.
[Instrumental Overlapped With Feminine Vocals]
At the end of 2019, I was listening back through the December readings in the Sir George Williams Poetry Series and I started exploring the reading by Daryl Hine. At first, I considered selecting his reading of the final poem “The Trout,” but then I noticed something else: a note for one timestamp indicating that Hine had introduced and read quote, “an unknown poem.” End quote. As I listened to his introduction to that poem, I realized that he was preparing the audience for the now-famous poem “Point Grey,” which at the time of this reading was not yet published. In fact, the introducer of Hine at the start of the reading had mentioned that Minutes, the collection that contained “Point Grey,” would be published in the new year, 1968. That voice of the introducer was listed as unknown, too, but it sounded a great deal like Margaret Atwood, possibly meaning that this was the first time that Atwood heard “Point Grey,” a point to expand upon elsewhere and perhaps even to confirm through an Audio of the Week in the new year.
Returning back to the audio clip of Hine’s poem, the unpublished state of “Point Grey” is audible through the sounds of the pages turning, suggesting that Hine read from sheets of paper, not from a book and especially in his decision to restart and read a different version. He introduced the poem by describing its view from the University of British Columbia or Point Grey clarifying that, quote, “I don’t mean the university by any of the architectural things I mention in this poem, but I’m talking about the beach, a very beautiful, barren Pacific beach that lies below Point Grey.” End quote. Many years ago, I heard this poem read in a classroom at UBC, overlooking the same view where, quote, “…rain makes spectres of the mountains.” End quote. Here was “Point Grey, on this recording, as I listened from Montreal where this poem was read in 1967, soon to be published in 1968 and anthologized in poetry collections for years to come.
[Coughs] [Audio, Daryl Hine] Well, I also—[Shuffling Papers] this year or was it last?—returned to my place of origin, British Columbia [Long Pause, Audio Cuts Slightly] –Grey, which will be familiar to some of you as the site of the University of British Columbia. I don’t mean the university by any of the architectural things I mention in this poem. But I’m talking about the beach, a very beautiful, barren Pacific beach that lies below Point Grey.
[Audio, Daryl Hine Begins To Recite “Point Grey”] Brought up as I was to judge the weather / Whether it was fair or overcast… [Stops Reciting] Well [Crumples Paper] I’ll read another version, I think. Excuse me. [Begins To Recite A Different Version of “Point Grey”] Brought up as I was to ask of the weather / Whether it is fair or overcast, / Here, at least, it is a pretty morning, / The first fine day as I am told in months. / I took a path that led down to the beach, / Reflecting as I went on landscape, sex, and weather. / I met a welcome wonderful enough / To exorcise the educated ghost / Within me. No, this country is not haunted, / Only the rain makes spectres of the mountains. / There they are, and there somehow is the problem / Not exactly of freedom or of generation, / But just of living and the pain it causes. / Sometimes I think the air we breathe is mortal / And dies, trapped, in our unfeeling lungs. / Not too distant the mountains in the morning / Dropped their dim approval on the gesture / With which enthralled I greeted all this grandeur. / Beside the path, half buried in the bracken, / Stood a long-abandoned concrete bunker, / A little temple of lust, its rough walls covered / With religious frieze and votary inscription. / Personally I know no one who doesn’t suffer / Some sore of guilt, and mostly bedsores, too, / Those that come from scratching where it itches / And that dangerous sympathy called prurience. / But all about release and absolution / Lie in the waves that lap the dirty shingle / And the mountains that rise at hand above the rain. / Though I had forgotten that it could be so simple, / A beauty of sorts is nearly always within reach. [Shuffling Papers]
[Piano Overlaid With Distorted Beat]
Head to spokenweb.ca to find the entire recording where this selection is from. I’m Katherine McLeod and tune in next month for another deep dive into SpokenWeb’s audio collections.