Is “poet voice” just effeminacy?

Gregory Orr reading in what has been criticised as “poet voice”:

“It’s as if at some point between the last breath of banter and the first breath of poem a fairy has twinkled by and dumped onto the poet’s tongue a bag of magical dust, which for some reason forces the poet to adopt a precious, lilting cadence, to end every other line on a down-note, and to introduce, pauses, within sentences, where pauses, need not go.”

For comparison, Robert Bly reads poetry:

Robert Bly has a nasal voice but it is quite compelling in its own way, and he usually just gets on and reads the poem. He is often a no-nonsense performer. However, on this occasion, reading Yeats, he is just woeful, hammy and embarrassing:

Despite the title, I think this is actually a mixture of Jackie Leven, Robert Bly and Mike Scott presenting a poem byKabir (in any case, it is good):

Here is Sylvia Plath reading her own poetry:

A feminine poem read in a feminine style. Appropriate in this case. But men are reading their own work in this kind of style, and that is not so good to hear.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Now the question is whether I was being effeminate when I sung “Stopping in the Woods on a Snowy Evening” to “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin, complete with Robert Plant falsetto. Or is it a Robert Frost falsetto?

    Seriously, it is striking that a song is poetry set to music, and most good singers avoid this kind of effeminate affectation.

    Happy weekend!


    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on July 26, 2014 at 12:46 am

      You too.

      BTW, I read a lot of Robert Bly’s stuff last night, and while a lot of it is good, I cannot escape the feeling of a certain elemental phoniness. Like Joseph Campbell versified.

      The problem with poetry is not just the effeminate image it has these days, but that so many poets think that poetry should be all about “social justice”.


      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on July 26, 2014 at 1:51 am

        OK, I take that back, the bit about Bly.

        I have just read two more of his poems, and they are good: “Early Morning in Your Room” and “Calling Your Father”.

        “Tasting Heaven” is also good.

        These are all in his collection Stealing Sugar From the Castle.

      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on July 26, 2014 at 1:55 am

        He certainly attracts criticism, such as this (which is actually pretty interesting):

        and I read a feminist critique recently, which I shall try to find again, and which took some of his lines out of context to mock them. As far as I could tell, they were not so bad in context.

        I am sure Bly is no saint, but the guy is a real poet, in my opinion.

  2. Posted by Julian O'Dea on December 16, 2016 at 3:58 am

  3. Posted by Julian O'Dea on March 9, 2018 at 1:04 am

    ” The linguistics behind the insufferably annoying ‘poet voice’ “


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