Thursday, December 14, 2017

Out Loud

My main reading of the moment is Derek Walcott's Collected Poems 1948 - 1984. It's a volume I know well, having acquired it a few years ago, but I've never read it cover to cover. When I put his epic Omeros to one side a few weeks ago I had it in mind to drown in the bigger sea of his work, and that's what I'm doing.
I've just finished the very substantial (some 4000 lines) autobiographical poem Another Life, from 1973 which comes mid-way in the tome. This is a sort of precursor in its way to the highly personal Omeros and I thought it would be quite a straightforward read. It turned out to be very difficult for me to really make a start on it. In fact, my reading stalled for a couple of weeks. The solution came from sitting down at the table and actually reading it out loud, almost as if to a class. In that way I was forced to barge my way through the bits I didn't really get, picking up enough along the way to still enjoy the poem. It struck me that the pace at which I read aloud - quite measured, as if in public performance - is the right pace for me to mentally assimilate what I need to in order to feel I've actually read the poem - if you see what I mean. I seem to analyse as I go along, but not to the extent of getting bogged down. I suspect that if I were to backtrack and start again, a second reading would be far more fruitful (which is what happened to me with Omeros) but the first reading proved fruitful enough for me to feel I had done some justice to Walcott's work.

I'm thinking of applying the notion of the cover to cover reading to a number of my 'Collecteds', and possibly in the out loud mode (assuming the Missus can stand it, or I can find somewhere private enough for it to work.) So far the poetry I've read in this fashion has tended to be in shorter books or quite brief collections, but the idea has worked well with the Walcott. I feel I've picked up a stronger sense of his development as a writer through doing things this way - which is only logical, when you think about it.

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