When listening to one recording from the SGW Poetry Series (1966-1974), it can be hard to hear its place amid the reading series as a whole. One can visualize its place on a list or on a calendar but it can be harder to sonically hear the seriality itself, except when someone on the recording, most often the host, refers to the previous or following reading. For this Audio of the Week, as we near the end of 2019, I have selected two clips from December readings in which there are announcements for the next readings in January.
As I listened to December readings from various years in the SGW Poetry Series – to mark the end of this year, 2019 – 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 (00:42:19) indicating that Hine introduced and read “an unknown poem.” As I listened to his introduction, I realized that he was preparing the audience for the now-famous poem “Point Grey,” which, at the time of this reading, was not published. In fact, the introducer of Hine at the start of the reading mentioned that Minutes, the collection that contained “Point Grey,” would be published in 1968.
The last Audio of the Week featured Roy Kiyooka introducing Phyllis Webb and explaining what the SGW (Sir George Williams) Poetry Series attempted to achieve through its programming of Canadian and American poets from 1966-1974. In this week’s audio clip, Atwood first explains the illness haunting her voice and then starts her reading with the ghostly poem, “This is a Photograph of Me,” also the first poem in The Circle Game (1966). Despite its matter-of-fact title, this poem presents not a clear picture but rather a blurred trace of a haunted voice: “The photograph was taken / the day after I drowned.” Before her rise to celebrity (evident when Atwood reads again at SWGU in 1974), here is Atwood in 1967, at the start of her career, telling the reader and listener that this photograph-as-poem is a representation of me. But who is speaking? Listen closely, and “eventually / you will be able to see me.”