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Background to Heart's Needle


Different interpretations come from reading poetry
WD Snodgrass Poet
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Some… some poets read well, some reads very, very, very badly. Yeah, that means that it's now being filtered through another psyche and probably is going to cast other colors and implications and so forth. That's why I… that's why I loved teaching that course in oral interpretation… that I was getting interpretations of the poem all the time, that… that wouldn't have come to me by themselves. Yeah, and hearing somebody… well, it's the same thing, you know, I started out as a musician. You can't imagine saying, 'They're playing Beethoven's Third tonight', you say, 'Oh, I heard that'. You know, come on. That's what the conductor is there for, is… is to… is to have a different vision and a different reception of it to pass on to you. And of course, there are some interpretations that are just plain wrong, just plain dumb. But I… I don't know.

I… that's why I like teaching that course. You know, people were always reading things in ways I couldn't have suspected. And… and it was often people who didn't have much literary background and… and thought they didn't know much about poetry. And suddenly they would come out with an interpretation which… which, you know, which would leave me boggling. That's, you know, that… that's the nature of a work of art, I think, that it's subject to… it's related to all these different… it's a product of one particular mind, but it also then has to pass through all these different minds, and it's changed again and again and again and again. And it's, you know… there isn't one right way to hear it. You know, if somebody reads something like that or somebody plays something, a piece of music in a way that you don't expect, maybe you wouldn't want that to be the only way you ever heard it. And there may be such a thing as a reading which you'll decide is so definitive you don't… you don't need to hear it anymore, but I… no, not likely. More often, you will hear it again and again and again and with different emphases, different… well, yeah, that's the difference between a literary translation of a poem — we were talking about the other — and  you know, a real translation into a poem, it's going to have new and different emphat… kinds of emphases and… and possibilities and echoes, stuff like that there. I hope.

American poet WD Snodgrass, entered the world of poetry with a bang winning several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for his first collection of poetry, Heart's Needle. A backlash followed his controversial fifth anthology “The Fuehrer Bunker”, but in recent years these poems have been reassessed and their importance recognised.

Listeners: William B. Patrick

William B. Patrick is a writer and poet who lives in Troy, New York. Among his work are the poetry volumes "We Didn't Come Here for This" and "These Upraised Hands", the novel "Roxa: Voices of the Culver Family" and the plays "Rescue" and "Rachel's Dinner". His most recent work is the non-fiction book "Saving Troy", based on the year he spent following the Troy Fire Department.

Mr. Patrick has been Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute and has taught at Old Dominion University, Onondaga Community College, and Salem State College, and workshops in Screenwriting and Playwriting at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. He has received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Tags: Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven

Duration: 3 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: August 2004

Date story went live: 29 September 2010