Category Archives: art

Reading Aloud

Many of us probably remember round robin reading with a slight shudder of horror whether as students or teachers. I suppose at the time, it seemed the most efficient and effective way to hear every student, but it could be deadly for listeners and humiliating for readers. Is it still done?

A better way, I think, is to take a page from former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins who recommends giving students time to read over the material so they can prepare themselves and be able to read in a natural style. Collins is referring specifically to poetry but I think his suggestions can apply to any kind of recitation.  Collins’ tips are part of a program called Poetry 180 that asks teachers and schools to read aloud a poem every day of the school year:

The goal is to give students a chance to listen to a poem each day. The best time for the reading would be at the end of the daily announcements, whether they are delivered over a public address system, at an assembly in an auditorium or by teachers in their individual homerooms. The hope is that poetry will become a part of the daily life of students in addition to being a subject that is part of the school curriculum.

The site provides a helpful list of poems that seem to be mostly modern and contemporary poems from mostly North American writers. Collins cautions that this is not an exercise in interpretation. The goal is to hear a poem:

Unless students really want to discuss the poem, there is no need to do so. The most important thing is that the poems be read and listened to without any academic requirements.

I find this a fascinating bit of advice.Just listen and absorb. It is similar to  Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac without the extra interesting tidbits and Keillor’s drawl.

Reading aloud as performance or art has been a minor theme of the last two books I’ve read. In his Essays After Eighty, Donald Hall writes about doing poetry readings with some history of reading aloud along with warnings for readers. He describes the move from imagining the poem’s sound through the eyes to needing to say aloud the “mouth-juice of vowels, or mouth-chunk of consonants” (p. 41).

His descriptions of the great poets he heard read match quite nicely with Billy Collins’ tips for reading out loud:

Eliot was good, but most performances were insufferable–superb poems spoken as if they were lines from the telephone book. William Carlos Williams read too quickly in a high-pitched voice, but seemed to enjoy himself. Wallace Stevens appeared to loathe his beautiful work, making it flat and half audible…Marianne Moore’s tuneless drone as as eccentric as her imitable art. (p. 42)

Only Dylan Thomas seems to have met his expectations with his “rich and succulent Welsh organ” (p. 43).

As I read Hall’s essay about reading poetry, I was reminded of James Agee’s preface to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. “This text,” he writes, “was written with reading aloud in mind.” He seems to contradict himself and offer a reverse process to that described by Hall when he goes on to say,

That cannot be recommended: but it is suggested that the reader attend with his ear to what he takes off the page: for variations of tone, pace, shape, and dynamics are here particularly unavailable to the eye alone, and with their loss, a good deal of meaning escapes. (p. xi).

For Agee, sound adds meaning. As I wrote in the review on my book blog:

His prose tumbles along, piling up details and impressions, swirling the story into the midst. Sometimes, it made for daunting reading and I would look ahead for the next break. Other times, I found myself in the flow, not worried so much about exact meaning but absorbing impressions as I rode along the natural energy of the words.

I even read some of it aloud.

Poetry in Unexpected Places

I am sitting in the Indianapolis airport waiting on a delayed flight. I have walked the terminal several times and was struck by the beautiful painted glass windows, some of which include poems. The images have a restful quality to them and I love that someone took the time to create such beauty in what is sometimes a sterile space.

The one in the photo says:

Back home
On the ground
We discover
that the gift
the great wings gave us
is new eyes to see that
this place where we live
we love more than we know

I certainly love the place I live and I knew that all along but the poem reminds me of my connection to our farm and our home.

The art is by Martin Donlin and the poem is by Norbert Krapf. You can learn more about the art in this brochure.

Making Creativity A Priority

At the beginning of the year, I dove into The Daily Create, part of ds106. Then, real life intervened: the semester started at the two universities where I teach, the to do list for my day job got longer, and, this week, the spring gardening season took off as we started working on the greenhouse and planting beets and carrots. The 15 to 20 minutes required to take a picture, record a sound or create a video suddenly seemed more difficult to find. I saw today’s assignment to record a sound of something that comforts or makes you feel safe, and I knew exactly what I would do. But as the afternoon got crowded, it was tempting to skip it again.

Since I was going to make my afternoon latte anyway, I decided it wouldn’t be that much harder to record the sound and do some quick processing. Garageband gave me a little trouble but I was able to get it done and posted.

Is it creative? Is it art? It answers the prompt: my afternoon latte is part of my daily ritual. It means a break from the work day for a cup of coffee and a few pages of whatever book I am reading. I curl up in the window seat upstairs, read and watch the sun set. And the act of recording it gave me a break from the daily work as well.

I can’t help but think about the classrooms across the country where the work–often defined as preparing for the test–takes away from the opportunity to create, even something as simple as recording every day sounds. And as budgets get tight, the creative arts are the first things to go.

So, here’s my ode to creativity and my pledge to continue to find that time for creativity as much as possible:

Looking At: The Art of Calligraphy

My parents run the second-hand shops at their retirement community and are often passing along interesting items. For Easter, they gave us a tackle box (for my husband) and I got all the calligraphy pens that they found in the box. A big pile. And tonight I decided to try out some of the pens. I have beautiful bottles of a dozen different colors of ink. So, while I listen to all the tracks in iTunes that are named “Track 1” etc, I am going to fool around with calligraphy.

This would normally not really be the stuff of blogging for me except that I had the big revelation when I googled “calligraphy.” I found a terrific article by Julian Waters at the Calligrapher’s Guild: Calligraphy, Lettering and Typefaces. He quotes Chinese calligrapher Wang Hsi-chih: “Writing needs meaning, whereas calligraphy expresses itself above all through forms and gestures. It elevates the soul and illuminates the feelings.” Calligraphy is really a forerunner of electronic text that invites us to look at it rather than through it to the meaning. It enhances the meaning but also appeals to the viewer in its own right. It’s funny to stumble upon rhetoric in this way. There’s the toggle that boggles the mind, being able to look at and through. A little theoretical twist to my artist’s date!

Painting the Mona Lisa with Paint

I’m writing my article for the VEA News and focusing on a random collection of Web 2.0 tools.  I have to include Google Maps since I spent all day yesterday creating my first mash up of our Texas trip.

I went to YouTube and checked out my subscriptions.  Here’s a very cool video from Eclectic Asylum Art.  What if Da Vinci had had Paint?  And Photoshop?  Talk about media convergence: