Read-Aloud Series 1: Li-Young Lee, “This Room and Everything In It”

by mammalfish

The teachers always made us read aloud. I remember, especially, Shakespeare; the old proud English our teenage tongues tripped over, shyly, never quite understanding the words.

I was often aware in those classes, as we went around the room, that I was strange for liking it, though it was scary. I craved the read-aloud as a chance, a moment to perform, to bring these old words to life, to try to imbue them with emotions I had never felt myself, to try to understand them through the pure thick impenetrable Shakespeare-ness of it all. If I gave the words enough energy, maybe I’d understand them. If I gave them enough love, through speaking them sincerely, maybe they would come to life. I read the scripts of my favorite plays alone to myself, in my room, acting out every character, becoming each one in turn; and if the line was especially good, I read it over and over, until it was right, until the words gleamed diamond with the conviction this unreal person really had—in their anger, or their longing, their love—their disembodied fictional souls speaking out my mouth, a chance to be someone else.

Needless to say, I still love reading aloud, and when given a chance I commit to it. I have a few dear friends who enjoy listening and I love them for their ears. But truly few people have the time to be read-aloud to and I don’t want to subject them to my attempts, so I still do a lot of it for my own ears alone. In an effort to make something tangible of all this, I’ll be recording some of all this. Here is try Number 1, a poem a friend introduced me to recently, which I love: Li-Young Lee’s “This Room and Everything In It”. It is a poem that captures something, a feeling, that you can’t really hit on the nose. You couldn’t say it directly, you wouldn’t know the longing of this moment without indirectness. Forgetting, love, moments of perfection and loss.

I’m taking suggestions for more read-alouds—poems, fiction, non-fiction, or whatever. I would love your input. Better yet, record yourself reading something you love, for me, and link me to it in the comments below. Thanks, friends.

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