Once upon a time I broke the rules and spoke with another poet (it doesn’t matter who) about a poetry reading we had attended together.
Finding ourselves leaving the venue at the same time, we fell into conversation. It was high summer, and something of that season’s leisurely pace blossomed in our dialogue.
There was a silence. The subject of the reading was broached.
‘X (it doesn’t matter who) is the most wonderful poet,’ my companion said. ‘But I can’t help feeling their true voice is one of slow lyricism, not one with an eye to populist applause.’
There was another silence.
Without knowing why, I agreed, and the conversation moved on.
All of this came to mind, for the first time in years, only the other day.
I was trying to tell a non-poet friend what I most admired about the work of a poet (it doesn’t matter who) I was recommending they read.
Without thinking I found myself saying that their true voice was one of slow lyricism, not one with an eye to the surface tension of applause.
I began to wonder: is it possible to detect opposing strains of voice, with concomitant pulls on energy, syntax, and subject matter, in the voice of most poets, or only a few? Or is there even any such thing as this thing we call a ‘voice’, let alone being in possession of only one of them? And does it matter?
I confess I do not know.
But I do know when I read certain poets’ poems it is as though they have cut through to the essence of what they want to say. I know this because the sound is not a recognisable ‘voice’ at all. Rather, the sound is of someone leaving the room, the door closing behind them with barely a click.