I do my most creative thinking in the shower (though not necessarily my most productive, since many ideas dry up after toweling off). Something about water on my head sets off sparks. Quite a few showers ago, back in May, I had an idea: what if I gathered recordings of other people—people who aren’t me—reading poems from my new book, Local Extinctions? I’m not sure why this particular idea soaked into my brain, but it did.
Sometimes after a reading, people tell me how important they think it is to hear poetry read by the author. It’s nice, that’s true, but as the author, I’m interested in how the work resonates with the audience. I’ve not a big fan of the sound of my own voice. I don’t mean that I don’t like talking; I just don’t love the way my voice clanks along when I hear it on a recording. But the world is blessed with wonderful voices—melodious and nuanced and evocative and full of character. What would it be like to hear those voices read my words?
I’m hoping this project will excite connections between people and poems, or more broadly, people and words. When you read a poem you enjoy, the words shift how you see something. In these days of easy words with tenuous meaning, poetry may remind us that language has power, both good and bad, and builds or breaks our relationships with one another. There is enough breaking out there; I’d rather build.
Thank you to the friends, family, and former strangers (now collaborators) who also thought this project would be fun and who put time and breath into it. I haven’t set out to create professional recordings in a studio (though some may be), so many of these voices will be as you’d hear them over a phone or from a computer mic or in a kitchen, which just adds layers to the experience of listening. There will also be multiple versions of poems, so you can hear what they sound like on different people.
Coming soon—the first readers!