I was a disc jockey, once upon a long time ago, at a radio station.
During the training, my supervisor spoke about on-air voice and how to speak with a microphone. He pointed out that many people adopt a “radio voice”—you know, exaggerating the highs and lows, changing the rhythm of how you speak. Even taking on some strange, subtle accent. Watch that you don’t develop that, he said. Use your own voice, just be sure to speak clearly.
That was great advice for that job, and it stuck with me.
So, I went to a poetry reading tonight, and the reading was excellent. Really, really good poetry, and strong voices.
If you’ve ever been to a poetry reading, you’ll hear the affected tone that it seems like most poets read with. It’s the “poetry voice,” like the “radio voice.” Do the lines end with a falling pitch or a rising pitch? (That was a joke. You’re supposed to read that last with a rising inflection, as it is a question. I know: I shouldn’t have to explain it.)
I think the voice is picked up by emerging poets who listen to their idolized poets read, and they cannot help but emulate and then ingest the poetry voice. I’ll bet that’s the same way that some radio voices come to be.
I’m making too much of the poetry voice that I heard this evening. It was subtler than I’ve heard before, and I got used to it quickly. Really, I was delighted by the great poetry being read by its author.
(Out of respect for the artist, I’ll not name the poet, seeing as how I’ve critiqued the reading style.)