Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I was so sad

Months ago, I wanted to make a podcast that incorporated different voices. Asking everyone to talk about their grandmothers would have dragged on, I thought. What you need, a friend told me, is an anchor. I have loved this poem for years. It's from a poet no one I know has ever heard of, typed in a $6 book from a small San Francisco press. What if I got my friends to read different parts?

That's what this is: A recording of everyone from an 82-year-old Southern lady to 17-year-old krumpers reading lines from one of my favorite poems. They complete each others' sentences. They mix together to produce a whole. Some I recorded in person. Others, over the phone or the Internet. One person was so nervous it took her one hour and a beer to read. Another finished his performance of all three lines in under a minute.

I asked every participant to pick about three lines they wanted to read. Some people got to say their lines a few times, but no one ever had a chance to hear their lines and later record. Not even me (believe me, it was tempting).

I imagined this project would work so differently. I needed way more people and time than I thought I would. But I am proud of what it became. In the months I spent recording, I learned so much about poetry. When I started, I thought there were 10 lines everyone would choose. One of these -- "made my home in the breakdown lane" was one of the last lines chosen. A line I hated -- "four monkeys and a garbage truck" was one of the first chosen. Taste, it turns out, is subjective.

I had even thought whoever records last will hate their lines, will be stuck with the worst words. But listening closely, I heard him say right before he read his line, "Oh, I love this. This line is great."

I learned about enjambment. Breaks really do change everything. A line like "reached the end of my patience when the moon walked through the door wearing my brand new sweater" had always seemed silly to me. When I heard a friend read "the moon walked through the door," I realized how much beauty was in between the sentence.

Poetry has always been a solo thing for me. Spending months reading poetry with people, talking the lines over and searching (always) for meaning, I found poetry to be totally brand new. People read lines with inflections I never would have considered. They found beauty in lines I had never noticed.

Eventually, the book fell apart. Too many people bent back its pages. An English teacher meticulously taped the pages back together again. Afterward, she read her lines. I should say now that every woman over 60 who read easily outperformed everyone else.

But, decide for yourself. After six months, here it is:

"I was so sad" by David Lerner, as read by like 50 people:

If the embed option doesn't work for you, you can also download the file: Here!


gorjus said...


This is quite simply lovely, even astonishing. I adore it.


neola said...

I was surprised to hear my own voice again and again.

Lynette said...

Wowsers, Caseydeeah! Mama and I adore how this turned out. Lynettey

Ted and Lori said...

What a wonderful thing! I kept it running as I was doing something else and suddenly heard nephew Colin. I agree with gorjus: astonishing.

IDR said...

Casey, I want to be 40, at least! I want to achieve that wisdom and sense of presence in voice! (Why was I so quiet?) I love love love what you did, and could hear Lynette and her mama just resonate throughout and I loved it all the more. There's a wonderful man's voice in there somewhere too. Reminds me of a history teacher I had. XOXO, Isolde

NakedJudy11 said...

This is totally amazing! I'm going to play this to anyone who will listen!

Breakfast Pusher said...

casey, this is amazing. thanks for letting so many of us be a part of it.

xo. carrie

grayandgrey said...

Hey Casey,
Margaret told me to check out your blog, so I did-- I like this recording and have liked a few things I've read by this same writer. I've moved down to SF and started a blog about what's happening down here for me with pictures and writing and some general silliness-- you should check it out at grayandgrey.blogspot.com!
I'll be sure to keep tabs on your new projects,
Hope all is well in PDX,