Monday, June 23, 2008


I'm looking for poems about reading, about books.
Even about specific books.
Thomas Lux has one.
Any other suggestions?

The Voice You Hear
When You Read Silently

is not silent, it is a speaking-
out-loud voice in your head: it is spoken,
a voice is saying it
as you read. It is the writer's words,
of course, in a literary sense
his or her voice, but the sound
of that voice is the sound of your voice.
Not the sound your friends know
or the sound of a tape played back
but your voice
caught in the dark cathedral
of your skull, your voice heard
by an internal ear informed by internal abstracts
and what you know by feeling,
having felt. It is your voice
saying, for example, the word barn
that the writer wrote
but the barn you say
is a barn you know or knew. The voice
in your head, speaking as you read,
never says anything neutrally -- some people
hated the barn they knew,
some people love the barn they know
so you hear the word loaded
and a sensory constellation
is lit: horse-gnawed stalls,
hayloft, black heat tape wrapping
a water pipe, a slippery
spilled chirr of oats from a split sack,
the bony, filthy haunches of cows...
And barn is only a noun -- no verb
or subject has entered into the sentence yet!
The voice you hear when you read to yourself
is the clearest voice: you speak it
speaking to you.

Thomas Lux


Christine said...

Hello, Pam! Try a couple of classics on these themes: "A Book" and "Poetry" by Emily Dickinson. I'll try to think of others.

Pam Hart said...

Chris--thanks for these, which I'll look for. Do you know the numbers on the Dickinson poems? I welcome any other suggestions.

Pamela said...

E. Bishop's "Over 2000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance" is about my favorite.

Don't know the number, but there's also Dickinson's "There is no Frigate like a Book," and there are a great number of other Dickinson ones, whose first lines I cannot recall right now.

Wallace Stevens' "Large Red Man, Reading" and Billy Collins' "Marginalia" also come to mind, as well as Keats' "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer."

Christine said...

"A Book" or "There is no frigate like a book" is XCIX/99. I have two Dickinson books out on the table and am searching for others. I'll send you links if I can locate them online.

Pam Hart said...

Thank you Pamela! Great suggestions -- both the Stevens and the Bishop poems are terrific.
And Chris thanks for the research. Keep up the good work!