Prosaic reading of what is meant to be Poetry

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nikita1
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Post by nikita1 » December 8th, 2018, 9:15 pm

Hi.
Sorry for my english, i never speak it so have no skill. Hope you will understand what i mean. I couldn't contain it any longer and had to ask.

Why do you read poetry like this:
https://librivox.org/the-iliad-pope-translation-by-homer/
https://librivox.org/the-odysseys-of-homer-by-homer-and-chapman/
https://librivox.org/don-juan-canto-i-by-george-gordon-byron-6th-baron-byron/
(and much more other examples on librvox)

instead of like this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_LYnkUb0v8

?

I mean the librvox's readers do not follow metre at all. Why? Did the poets write, spend years to compose every line metrical and poetically-sounding for to be read like that? For me, to read it like that (like librvox's reading) is a show of disrespect towards the poets' labours, not to say towards listeners who expect to hear poetry, not prose.

Maybe you, in your Eglish speaking world just don't understand what i mean. I'll try to explain.

On which he rush’d, to try if he could ’scAPE
His plotted death, or serve her treach’rous rAPE.
And now return we to Eumæus’ shED,
Where, at their food with others marshallÉD,

Every two lines have rhymes (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rhyme). Moreover, see:

(1)On - (2)which - (3)he - (4)rushd - (5)to - (6)try - (7)if - (8)he - (9)could - (10)scape
(1)his - (2)plo - (3)tted - (4)death - (5)or - (6)serve - (7)her - (8)treach - (9)rous - (10)rape

Why don't readers read it metrically? Instead, you will make a tiny pause after, say, the word "try" and then read the whole "if he could ’scape his plotted death" without any pause, namely without the pause which is expected after "scape" because the line ends and the word "scape" has rhyme and must be accented.
Sometimes, as you can see, there are even words like "marshalléd," where the accent is expected to be made on another syllable.

I've never heard in my country (Russia) any poetry (tv readings of famous poetry, or in audiobooks, or in school) being read in the manner the librvox readers read it. In my country, If a student should read a poem like that (we have a practice of learning poems at home then reading it at school by heart) he will get the lowest grade.
Stephen Fry's reading of that poem, to which i gave a link on youtube, is about the only adequate reading of rhymed and metrical poetry that I heard in English.

mightyfelix
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Post by mightyfelix » December 8th, 2018, 11:23 pm

I understand what you mean perfectly well, you did a great job describing it. The answer to your question is pretty simple... Or, maybe not quite as simple as it seems?

At LibriVox, "Our objective is to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet." Our philosophy is that having something finished, even with imperfections, is better than not having finished anything at all. So one rule that we take very seriously is to never critique a reader's reading style unless they've specifically asked for feedback. We're not professionals, and we don't pretend to be. Everybody who has ever recorded anything for LibriVox did it because they enjoyed it. Even if they didn't understand the meter, something about the poem appealed to them, so they read it, just to share the thing they'd enjoyed with someone else.

That being said, it's very likely that there are some examples of poems in the LibriVox catalogue that follow meter quite well. It simply depends on each individual reader.

For myself, I can think of a few poems that I have read where I made a conscious decision to place less emphasis on meter in order to make the meaning more clear. I mean that, in some cases, the rhyming syllable is one that would simply never be stressed in everyday speech, and I feared that to stress it in a poem could make the listener lose the thread of the meaning. To me, the meaning of the poem takes precedence over the meter. Just a different philosophy, I guess.

I think it's interesting that you mentioned your experience with poetry in school. I can't recall ever having to recite poetry in school (I'm in the USA), although we did read and analyze it. Performance was simply never discussed, except perhaps in drama and theatre classes.

nikita1
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Post by nikita1 » December 9th, 2018, 12:38 am

Yes, I understand that librvox readers are not to be criticized as for their abilities of reading, but it's not so much about someone's reading abilities, as about some conscious preference to read poetry prosaically.
Since, as you say, in the US there is no such practice to read poetry by heart in schools, and maybe in west Europe too, perhaps it really stems from that. Indeed, if one is not taught from childhood to read it aloud, metrically and dramatically, and, to boot, he doesn't listen to audiobooks with the correct reading, he then just has no means to possibly acquire the conception of the correct poetical pronunciation.

annise
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Post by annise » December 9th, 2018, 1:11 am

I think we need to accept that difference places teach different ideas, and maybe even that different languages have different approaches to it and accept it. Personally, I'm quite fussy about the way I like poetry read, but that doesn't mean the way I like is right and the ways I don't like are not, they are just different.

And sometimes I gain something listening to a different way.

Anne

Peter Why
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Post by Peter Why » December 9th, 2018, 2:31 am

(The following is just my opinion, uneducated formally in English Literature.)

You also have the fact that in some verse, the flow of sense is more important than the metre is. The end-of-line rhymes become much less emphasised, and they are taken in by the listener almost subconsciously.

Here's an example of one of Harry Graham's verses. I'll read it first with well-defined metre, and second as I would read it to carry the joke and the sense more clearly.

https://librivox.org/uploads/xx-nonproject/hgraham_verse_py.mp3

(23 seconds)

... also, for me as a personal difficulty, I find much of Shakespeare extremely hard to understand, especially when it is read with emphasised metre. If the speeches are read more conversationally, they seems more to carry much more emotion and meaning.

Peter
"I think, therefore I am, I think." Solomon Cohen, in Terry Pratchett's Dodger

moniaqua
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Post by moniaqua » December 9th, 2018, 2:54 am

Just to make clear my computer isn't messed up and provides me wrong links:
the first is the Iliad translated to English, where the poetry has not been preserved.

The you-tube-link goes to a version of Eugen Onegin, a prose novel (at least translated) as well.

None of the texts is written as poetry in English (maybe it was in the original language). So how should one read a metrum there :?: If you refer to some poetry inside the texts I'd need a more specific link (right-click on the youtube-video and something like "share video-url from this time or so).

For the rest I agree to Peter Why on the first hand and the others, too. I also have learned that sometimes you have to go away a bit from the meter if you want to excel in reading a poem. Also there is some risk that you get really boring and cranking if you stick to hard to the meter. And here at LibriVox is the policy not to criticize reading style. If you don't like a reading, you still have the chance to read the text again, we have the choice of voice :)

nikita1
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Post by nikita1 » December 9th, 2018, 3:12 am

moniaqua wrote:
December 9th, 2018, 2:54 am
Just to make clear my computer isn't messed up and provides me wrong links:
the first is the Iliad translated to English, where the poetry has not been preserved.
The Iliad by the first link, except the two first audio-files of introduction and prosaic "arguments" at the beginnings of each book, is pure poetry, and if you don't hear poetry there it's just because the reader doesn't read it as poetry.
excerpt:
But, goddess! thou thy suppliant son attend.
To high Olympus' shining court ascend,
Urge all the ties to former service owed,
And sue for vengeance to the thundering god.

this is the text of that translation of Eugene Onegin, by the way:
http://lingualeo.com/ru/jungle/eugene-onegin-by-alexander-pushkin-a-novel-in-verse-translated-by-james-e-falen-291492#/page/1

moniaqua
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Post by moniaqua » December 9th, 2018, 3:15 am

nikita1 wrote:
December 9th, 2018, 3:12 am
except the two first audio-files of introduction and prosaic "arguments" at the beginnings of each book,
Oh, sure enough I found the arguments, I think. Is there something equal to Eugen Onegin, too (no, usually I can hear if there are rhyming endings, really! I clicked just somewhere in the middle and am not in the mood to search all pages of your translation - btw, is this the text linked in the catalogue?). So, once again - please provide a precise link pointing exactly to the part where a poem or such is not a read as poetry, thank you. Ah, hang on, on Onegin I listened to the french part and after the experiences of the other links thought "And it is in French, too, not even English" and stopped - you really should link better :)

nikita1
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Post by nikita1 » December 9th, 2018, 5:37 am

moniaqua wrote:
December 9th, 2018, 3:15 am
nikita1 wrote:
December 9th, 2018, 3:12 am
except the two first audio-files of introduction and prosaic "arguments" at the beginnings of each book,
Oh, sure enough I found the arguments, I think. Is there something equal to Eugen Onegin, too (no, usually I can hear if there are rhyming endings, really! I clicked just somewhere in the middle and am not in the mood to search all pages of your translation - btw, is this the text linked in the catalogue?). So, once again - please provide a precise link pointing exactly to the part where a poem or such is not a read as poetry, thank you.
for example
https://ia801301.us.archive.org/16/items/odysseysofhomer_1511_librivox/odysseys_04_homer_64kb.mp3

it's at about 4.35 - 04.55
And to a laver, rich and glittering,
Of massy gold, pour’d; which she plac’d upon
A silver caldron, into which might run

The water as they wash’d. Then set she near
A polish’d table, on which all the cheer

the reader doesn't make any accent on "upon", reads both lines as one. Then he reads

"........ into which might run
The water as they wash’d......."

as another one line, which makes the rhyme "near-cheer" unperceivable.

One another example of the "correct" reading of verses
https://www.amazon.com/The-Aeneid/dp/B003IX37JW (audio sample)


>>>>btw, is this the text linked in the catalogue?
I'm not sure I understand, but if you meant whether that text of Onegin is on gutenberg/archive org, then no, it's a modern translation. But it is available on the internet as you can see.

mightyfelix
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Post by mightyfelix » December 9th, 2018, 6:12 am

Ooh, thanks for that example of upon/run and near/cheer. That's exactly the kind of thing I meant in my previous post when I said that sometimes I would personally choose to deemphasize the meter in order to make the meaning more clear. In everyday speech, a native English speaker would never stress the words "upon" or "near" in a sentence structure like that, nor would you ever hear a pause after those words. In my opinion, to follow the meter too strictly would sound forced and stilted, and it would not carry the meaning very well.

I also don't personally enjoy listening to poetry which is read with too much metrical emphasis. Pretty soon I start to find it almost impossible to attend to the words and meaning, because the "beat" of it becomes too distracting. If the meter is emphasized in some places and deemphasized in others, the places where it is given less stress still sound like poetry to me, but it sounds more natural and not forced.

I think what we're probably running into is maybe a different cultural preference of style for how to approach poetry. I see from some of the other comments that I'm not the only one who gives a little more prominence to the meaning. (I like how Peter put it, the "flow of sense") I wonder if this is a result of less formal schooling on reading poetry, or if it's just something that English speakers do naturally?
Last edited by mightyfelix on December 9th, 2018, 1:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

tovarisch
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Post by tovarisch » December 9th, 2018, 7:11 am

mightyfelix wrote:
December 9th, 2018, 6:12 am
That's exactly the kind of thing I meant in my previous post when I said that sometimes I would personally choose to deemphasize the meter in order to make the meaning more clear.
I am biased just like Nikita is, I suppose. "Poems" in English lost their spark some time around the first quarter/third of the last century. I don't know why, and I don't really care. However, your words kind of strike a note. Was it to dumb-down "poetry", so it's easier "digested" by the masses (in an attempt to gain the market)? Or, in reverse, was it the movement by so called "poets" who didn't want to appear to write "lyrics"? (If you look and listen, texts for songs are still written to rhyme even today, even by rappers). So called "poets" may have desired to set themselves apart from the growing number of songsmiths.

To get the meaning from a poem is a challenge sometimes. However, if you remove the challenge, you rob the listener of the ability to grow intellectually. I believe that's the disservice that is done for the past few decades to readers and listeners of the so called "poetry".
tovarisch
  • reality prompts me to scale down my reading, sorry to say
    to PLers: do correct my pronunciation please

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Post by chocoholic » December 9th, 2018, 11:58 am

You might be interested to read this article by Billy Collins, a former US Poet Laureate, explaining to teenagers how to read poems aloud. The link includes an audio recording of Mr. Collins reading a poem in the style you object to. He is discussing modern poetry, so rhyme and meter are not as regimented as in the type of poetry you are talking about. But this just illustrates that poetry reading style is a matter of opinion: it depends on the poem, the context, the expected audience, and (to a huge degree) the reader's interpretation.
https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/p180-howtoread.html

The style that you are uncomfortable with is simply the way many English speakers learn to read poetry. I seem to remember being taught exactly what Billy Collins says in the article, that one should not pause at the end of every line but instead should read a poem with a natural flow of speech, following the author's punctuation. I am no linguist (or poetry expert), but I would assume that poetry is taught in different ways in different languages and countries.
Laurie Anne

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Post by tovarisch » December 9th, 2018, 12:29 pm

There are two ways of looking at Billy Collins' credentials, aren't there? One is that he's an expert and an authority, the other is that the top honours awarded him don't mean nowadays what they once did... :wink:

It's not like there wasn't any blank/white verse before. Many plays written in verse don't necessarily have rhyming endings. They have very particular rhythm, though. And well constructed prose can be given an epithet of "poetry", "poetic". It just so sad that at some point people started taking those things literally...
tovarisch
  • reality prompts me to scale down my reading, sorry to say
    to PLers: do correct my pronunciation please

moniaqua
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Post by moniaqua » December 9th, 2018, 1:06 pm

nikita1 wrote:
December 9th, 2018, 5:37 am
or example
https://ia801301.us.archive.org/16/items/odysseysofhomer_1511_librivox/odysseys_04_homer_64kb.mp3

it's at about 4.35 - 04.55
And to a laver, rich and glittering,
Of massy gold, pour’d; which she plac’d upon
A silver caldron, into which might run
The water as they wash’d. Then set she near
A polish’d table, on which all the cheer

the reader doesn't make any accent on "upon", reads both lines as one. Then he reads

"........ into which might run
The water as they wash’d......."

as another one line, which makes the rhyme "near-cheer" unperceivable.
That is exactly what Peter and Devorah said - if you stress too much on the meter here, the sense gets lost.

Must be some kind of culture-shock Image
nikita1 wrote:
December 9th, 2018, 5:37 am
One another example of the "correct" reading of verses
https://www.amazon.com/The-Aeneid/dp/B003IX37JW (audio sample)
Here the endings of the lines fall better together with the pauses as in the other example.
mightyfelix wrote:
December 9th, 2018, 6:12 am
I wonder if this is a result of less formal schooling on reading poetry, it if it's just something that English speakers do naturally?
I learned to do it like that and I am German :D
I think on Mr. Collins page ist the most interesting paragraph this one:
Obviously, poems come in lines, but pausing at the end of every line will create a choppy effect and interrupt the flow of the poem's sense. Readers should pause only where there is punctuation, just as you would when reading prose, only more slowly.

mightyfelix
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Post by mightyfelix » December 9th, 2018, 1:29 pm

On a related, but slightly different topic, I learned a new word recently about poetry: enjambment. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enjambment

It is when the thought or idea in poetry runs from one line to the next without a break, rather than finishing a thought with the end of each line. The excerpt Nikita provided above is enjambed, which is why it feels more natural to many of us not to pause there, or to give only a very slight pause.

Interesting perspective, Tovarisch, thanks for sharing your view! I do think that certain poems are far too sing-songy for my taste, and more so the more you stress the meter and rhyme. Even music which has too little variety gets to be very tedious. Altering the meter and stress patterns very slightly here and there is what gives poetry more luster, to me.

Also on a slightly different note, I've grown quite fond of alliterative poems lately. Tolkien's translation of Gawain and the Green Knight is an excellent example:
After the season of summer with its soft breezes,
when Zephyr goes sighing through seeds and herbs,
right glad is the grass that grows in the open,
when the damp dewdrops are dripping from the leaves, to greet a gay glance of the glistening sun.
But then Harvest hurries in, and hardens it quickly,
warns it before winter to wax to ripeness.
Not PD yet, of course, and I don't remember offhand when it will be. (He died in 1973.) But I'd love to record this poem one day. Each stanza closes with an A-B-A-B-A rhyme, so you can clearly hear where each stanza ends and the next begins.

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