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Muriel Rukesyer, reading “Anemone” (Post)

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During her introductory remarks (featured in last week’s Audio of the Week), poet Muriel Rukeyser asks the audience not only to raise their hands if they’ve ever written a poem but also to reflect upon what drives people to attend poetry readings in the first place. She speculates that people come and listen to poems because of embodied elements – the breathing, the heartbeat, the rhythms – and because of something else that is created while sharing a poem together. In her reading, there are poems in which one is acutely aware of being together, listening, even while listening to the recording. This poem is one of them: “Anemone” (The Speed of Darkness, 1968) – a poem that enacts Rukeyser’s opening remarks by making the room at once oceanic and intimate, and by saying to the listener: “You are here.”

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Muriel Rukeyser, introductory remarks (Post)

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In her opening remarks, poet Muriel Rukeyser asks her audience to raise their hands if they have ever written a poem. We hear a murmur and bits of laughter and, presumably, hands are raised. She thanks them, explaining that she has begun asking every audience this question and that “there’s always the moment of silence, and looking around first, and generally, quite slowly, almost all the hands go up.” Before reading a single poem, she manages to create a community of listeners and of poets. As Jane Malcolm has argued, if Rukeyser’s goal is “to occupy the room with poetry,” then, even without knowing how many raised their hands, “we are now listening to a collective, to one mere poet in a room of poets.” We start to hear the room as collectively invested in the questions of what a poetry reading is and why poetry readings as live events are worth seeking out – questions that we may also ask ourselves while seeking out and listening to these recordings today.

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