Poetry in Aldeburgh Countdown – An Intimate Dinner with Raised Voices by Anna Selby
Today’s poem is a disconcertingly noisy sonnet taken from Anna Selby’s pamphlet ‘The Burning’. In the poem, sounds are amplified in a way that they are not supposed to, the result of a house that “overreacts”, a cacophony from which there is no apparent escape and that extends to the point so that “even your bones are stirred to speak”.
At Poetry in Aldeburgh: Anna Selby is reading as part of ‘Four Poets read Four Poems each’ alongside Chrissy Williams, Edward Doegar and Richard Scott on Saturday 5th November from 8:30pm-10pm in the Peter Pears Gallery
An Intimate Dinner with Raised Voices
This house is spoilt. It overreacts. Repeats every step back
as a flapmouthed, bumfed-up cuss. The front gate smacks
a warning shot, then every door is a thug after.
At dinner, when you turn to the fool next to you and whisper,
I’d merely like to suggest – you make an address,
all hollering at each other in the same room, loud enough
for the drunk-klutz bashing down the alley to listen to.
Even the washing up is a scrum in a dock: plates crashing
however gently you place them on top of the other.
No matter how high up the house you climb, their laughter
tracks you, shrill as a Gatling gun and the chairs drag
under the table as they do at the end of a lesson. In bed,
even your bones are stirred to speak, listening all night
to the rain drip and tunnel your ribs with measly fists.
from The Burning (Salt, 2013)
Writing Prompt – Uncanny Cacophony
In his celebrated essay on ‘The Uncanny’ (1919), Freud attempts to define the concept as “that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar.” The German word equivalent for ‘uncanny’ is unheimlich, which translates literally into English as ‘unhomely’, encapsulating the idea of something being familiar and strange at the same time. Today’s exercise is to immerse yourself in a half-hour long gallery of ‘unhomely’ sound and to write while listening to it, allowing the sound to drive your text in a kind of improvised response. Expect screeching balloons, tinkling bells, smashed glass, strange organs, outer space type noises, and all manner of other discordant music and sound. In the first instance while you weather the assault of noise, try at least to get words down on the page that you can refine later into a finished poem.
Here is your playlist:
- Judy Dunaway, ‘Chorus with Balloons’ live performance (2000, 6 mins)
- Tim Hawkinson, ‘Uberorgan‘ (1985, 5 mins)
- Anton Bruhin + Stephan Wittwer, ‘Bells’ (1974, 4 mins)
- Tom Dissevelt, Soundtrack to the film Glass (1959, 2 mins)
- Wlodzimierz Kotonski, Soundtrack to the film Dom (House) (1958, 11mins)