This morning I found myself remembering the early 1960’s when I used to listen to Ken Nordine on AM radio while doing homework. He was the first poet I ever heard perform and to this day I have never heard anyone deliver lines of verse better. I have been to many poetry readings, most readers have a strange, stilted, stiff, and stylized delivery that has little to do with the meaning of the words. I’m sure you know what I mean. Most singers—folk and country especially—render their lyrics with rhythms, pitch, tone, and inflection that express so much more faithfully the meaning of the lines they perform. Ken Nordine is unique in that while he does not sing his lines, the manner in which he speaks them is essentially musical–spoken song, or as he calls it, “word jazz.”
Podcasts of many of his performances and shows are available at his Word Jazz website: http://www.wordjazz.com
If you have not yet had the pleasure of hearing Ken Nordine — please, treat yourself, have a listen to his “Infinite O’Clock.”
Poets thrive on paradoxes, creating them, giving them expression; philosophers also thrive on paradox, but by explaining them away. Poets present things as they are; philosophers explain how things come to be.
O for a Life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts!
Letter to Benjamin Bailey
22 November 1817
I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable
reaching after fact & reason.
Letter to his brothers
21 December 1817
A number of studies show the possible influence of Melville’s study of the lives and works of specific poets on his fiction writing. In her essay, “Melville’s ‘Borrowed Personage,'” Maryhelen C. Harmon discusses a possible source for Bartleby’s character in the tragically short life of the 18th century poet Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770) who died by his own hand at the age of 17. Chatterton’s poetry was—along with the story of his short, tragic life—widely influential among Romantic, Victorian, and Pre-Raphaelite poets and artists.
Harmon, Maryhelen C. “Melville’s ‘Borrowed Personage’: Bartleby and Thomas Chatterton.” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 33.1 (1987): 35-44.
An online version of Harmon’s essay is posted here.