Lightsey Darst is the Voice in Your Head

Pleased to be able to share with you a post by Lightsey Darst about her Ring Ring Poetry piece. Phone 612 223-POEM to hear her poem. -Cole

I don’t have a great voice. Like a lot of people, I don’t relish listening to recordings of myself, and I imagine you have to if you’re going to become a recording artist—which many poets are. Spoken word artists, yes, but many other poets have had recording careers—Dylan Thomas, for example.

Further back, I think how poet and bard were more or less the same thing in many cultures. I’m not saying this because I think poets need to get back to their roots. Modern poetry has a lot of roots, including philosophy, journalism, cartography, and graphic design; “poetry” is a name for a cloud, a thing that moves, that can’t be sharply delimited.

Normally, voice is not the primary medium for my work. I write for the page—the page and the voice in your head, not my voice. When I read in public, I try to engage some other elements (costume, choreography, visual art) so that it’s a performance, something different than the poem on the page, not just an inferior version of it.

Here, though, I didn’t have anything but my voice, which was an interesting challenge. This poem does not have a visual form; the paper version is a script, and I won’t be reprinting it, unless it’s for someone else to read from.

So I stood at Lake of the Isles (okay, parked: it was cold) and thought a lot about what people need to hear—not what I need to say or think people should hear, but what people need. I found my way to some things that I felt could work for a lot of listeners, and then I tried to read like someone you know.

One advantage of my voice—at least for this project—is that it tends to remind people of other people they know. My voice used to be interchangeable with my mother’s. Her friends, even her brother would just start talking to me on the phone, assuming I was her. Even my brother once said, after I picked up, “Which one of you is this?”

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