Monday, October 31, 2005

Last week

So I did a few things last week after the BookThug launch that I figure might be worth mentioning. Here's the first installment:

Wednesday: went to hear Maggie Helwig read with Karen Solie, David Seymour, David O'Meara, and Goran Simic at the Parliament library. Maggie was great, and I especially enjoyed her "if beauty or the comfort of the mind" poem, which I'd read before. I suppose, though, that this was the first mostly anecdotal lyric reading I'd been to in quite a while, and I was struck by the frequency with which the audience sighed at the end of poems. This called to mind some lines from Margaret Christakos's new book:

...If the story shocks or carouses some reader to

such vesicular inflated vagary that the story's effects will not
be packed away promptly neither is it a good short

story for a good one goes into the reader and
holds her there working its turns inside her until she's

roundly roundly dispensed to its virtuals and then a good
one gets up and goes so she can regroup to

work where she is recompensed and required to be She
does not own all day after all (from "Waiting")
So, yes, that sigh. Is it, um, the enactment of closure, the poem "getting up" after the listener has apprehended its affective significance and is now ready to consume the next morsel?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, that post-poem audience sound (whether it's a sigh or a sort of "mmm" or whatever it is) is interesting. I have mixed feelings about it (as I do about applause between poems, though for different reasons) -- on the one hand it does seem to indicate appreciation of the poem, but on the other hand it reads to me as a kind of "Oh, that's SO true", which is not necessarily a response I want, in that it seems to indicate that the poem is providing a kind of emotional or intellectual reassurance -- saying what people expect to hear, or in the way they expect to hear it. Which is not necessarily what I want to do.

I don't know whether people were going "mmm" after my poems or not (was too preoccupied with my coughing fits), but you're right, there was quite a bit of it in general.

By the way, speaking of audience behaviour, at the Small Press Fair after-party (such as it was), Nick Power raised an interesting though brief discussion of heckling, I think basically because he felt guilty for not heckling Barry Dempster.

-- maggie

10:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Yeah, I'm with you on the uneasiness about the possibility that the post-poem sound indicates that the listener has been reassured. On the other hand, thinking of a particular reading I did, I guess impassive silence can be a pretty awkward response too, especially if you're not feeling especially confident as a reader (thankfully, for the most part, I've had some response from audiences, even if it's just interested looks on faces). There are times when I think the "mmm" sound is meant to make the reader feel more comfortable; it's as if the audience is trying to say "we're with you." For the most part, though, I'm suspicious of it.

3:50 PM  

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