Sunday, February 7, 2010

Voice adhesion

That isn't a technical term, although it sounds technical. Maybe you know the correct technical term?

I'm talking about the way a voice that you're reading sticks to you, the that you begin to speak in that voice.

This can be an advantage. Or not.

I recently finished reading The Anthologist--and partway through the book I realized that I was thinking in the narrator's rambling, digressing voice. Anything I wrote, I'd have to fight that voice or agree to it.

I think this is why reading poems--aside from the immediate experience and the rippling after--can be such a delectable guide to writing poems. When I find a poet who speaks to me in that way--the way that gets into my own voice--it opens doors.

I don't worry about imitating, because I'm not those other poets, and my poems are not their poems. Lynda Hull's voice gets into my voice. Louise Gluck, James Galvin, Roberta Spear get can get into my voice--and my work sounds nothing like any of theirs. But their voices help open my voice, open doors of image and thought. I read their work for a while, and then I can't not write.

I couldn't find my copy of Lynda Hull's collected poems when I was packing (a fast panic), so I brought a book by a different poet. Richly textured poems that are a delight to read and that offer layers, but their voice does not get into my head, does not speak to me in that way.

Do you find voices sticking to you? Do you have favorites you return to for just that reason?

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