Monday, December 20, 2010

You Want Me to Put Your Poetry Where?

Just over two years ago, around the time that I began writing my verse novel, I started another low-tech experiment. It started with flour, water, cheesecloth and a bunch of unwashed organic grapes thrown together in an old Rubbermaid bowl. A couple of weeks later, I was waking up twice a night to feed a little monster that lived by the radiator in my living room. I had given birth to a bouncing—or rather—bubbling, baby sourdough seeder.

I have been baking my own bread since 1995 when a friend gave me a baking stone and an odd little book called Brother Juniper’s Bread Book—Slow-rise as Method and Metaphor. She couldn’t have chosen a better book for me. “Brother Juniper” suggested his recipes which required two or even three rises could act as forms of meditation. This was revolutionary for me at the time. Little did I know how slow a bread could actually take to rise. Now I with my sourdough starter, I bake loaves that take as many as three full days. That's not just slow, it's positively glacial.

This autumn in his course on Writing in the Culture, David Groff brought up the so-called “Slow Reading Movement.” I was glad to have a name for my impulse to slow down the reading process. Here I thought I was just a bad reader. It’s probably just delusional to think that being really old-fashioned and out-of-touch could be…I don’t know, countercultural. Leave it to the Internet to make even the most marginal freak feel like he has a subculture.

Check out what the Guardian has to say about it: The Art of Slow Reading.

One of the first times that I workshopped my verse novel, someone first gave me the compliment that she found herself reading the book aloud to herself at home. Unquestionably, narrative verse slows the process of reading. The “economy” of poetry demands that a reader must slow down. If novels were recipes, then the verse genre is the equivalent of a three-day bread. All that time; all those carbs. 

Maybe that’s why another classmate’s accusation that my book was just a “vanity project” really is true. It’s vain enough for a writer to demand the reader’s eyes. The verse novel demands that you take the writer into your mouth as well.

Hey Reader, what was the last book you read that made you want to read it aloud? Comment, Please!


  1. "Here is New York" by E.B. White. And/Or "Paper Towns" by John Green.

  2. the poems by Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez

  3. The Garden by Vita Sackville West.