David Lee has been "in cue" for when I did. I had the pleasure of hearing Lee read at the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference years ago. Because of this, I always hear his voice when I read his poetry.
I like having David Lee in my head. He's funny, for one, and his voice is somehow familiar to me. He's like an uncle, or a pastor, or any Southern man telling a parable to illustrate a point. I know this man. I've grown up with many men like him. It's something about the rhythm and cadence of his voice.
I think in most cases, hearing a poet reading their own work brings it to a new level. They add pauses, pacing, impact to parts of the poem that we might not get at first reading on our own. Adversely, I don't usually like to hear novelists read their work. I want to make up the voices of characters. In the same way I never see a movie made of a book first. I want to read it and form the characters in my mind. Otherwise I'll see the movie actor's face instead of the one I invent by reading.
But poets are different. Poetry is more personal, like an imprint of a person, so hearing it from the source makes sense.
So what about David Lee? His poems tell a story. In A Legacy of Shadows he draws upon his pig farming days, giving us a shoulder view of his life in rural Texas. Some of the poems make me wince because of their stark brutality ("For Jan, With Love"). In most, either his characters are speaking in the run-on way we do, or he weaves conversations through the poems spilling over with character.
The 400+page book almost reads like a novel in verse. It's a poetry collection of his work previously published. At Whidbey, Lee read his poems like they are written; without commas or pauses, pretty much like a co-worker talking your ear off.
Perhaps you think a poem about pig farming for Food Poetry Friday is a bit of a stretch. But this is a barbecue blog. An' all thems pigs is grown for eatin'.
Here's a portion of his poem, "Separating Pigs":
That one's going to be hard to catch
I can tell you now for a fact
he's one the fastest pigs
I ever seen
we'll have to get him in a corner
there he goes
get that othern, right there
I wisht I could find me a track
and race him
we'd win us some money
but it ain't one around here
State Legistlature wouldn't let us
race pigs anymore'n bet on horses
if they thought we's enjoying it
One of my favorite poems in the collection is "Fat", but I'd have to print the poem in its entirety, because I couldn't let go of a word. "Clean" is a hilarious poem about one of the town's many quirky residents. This collection is chock full of chuckles. Lee has been dubbed "The Pig Poet", but that hardly scratches the surface of his poetry. If you want to laugh, cry, squirm, and sigh in one sitting, check out David Lee.
Today's host of Poetry Friday is Julie Larios, who happened to read at the same conference with Lee!