Amongst a multiplicity of voices
It is true that in life, the best things are always the ones that come unexpected. Not that the recent Poets’ ‘Outloud session’ was unplanned, but the successful outcome and the impact of the different voices was indeed greatly unanticipated.
My memory of ‘reciting’ poems goes back to Primary school first, and then High School. At High School, our main subject teacher, called in Italian Professoressa, (and I have to say that in her case calling her just ‘teacher’ would have sounded quite diminutive), was teaching us Italian, History, History of Art, and Latin, and all of them with great ardor and passion. Yes, she even managed to get us to love Latin, a subject that in general, especially at a Liceo Linguistico (High School for Modern Foreign Languages), was not really the favourite one amongst students. For Italian literature, she bluntly and on a regular basis asked us to memorize lots of passages from Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ and a variety of poems from the Italian classics: Petrarca, Foscolo, Pascoli, Leopardi, Carducci, Saba, Ungaretti, D’Annunzio, Montale, Quasimodo, just to name a few.
Not that we loved this exercise but, in hindsight, I believe it was a very good practice. In memorizing the poems, we did reflect on them, unavoidably. While ‘hating’ them, we started appreciating them.
After finishing High School, I really missed this teacher and the sense of mission she displayed in transmitting us her love for each and every subject. A few years later, I bumped into her in a very unpredictable circumstance. She was taking my same exam at the university: ‘History of Medieval Church and Heretical Movements’. I for sure did not expect to find here there, as a student. Especially as she could herself teach the university professors. But there she was, taking her second degree, this time in History.
Excuse my digression, but I kept thinking of her while I was attending the recent poets’ get-together. Ultimately, my passion for poetry developed thanks to her and to her insistence on learning (through memorization), analyzing and above all reflecting on our Italian classic poems.
We have previously mentioned in this blog the poetry collection ‘Desde Hong Kong: Poets in Conversation with Octavio Paz’, dedicated to the late Mexican poet and Noble-Prize winner Octavio Paz. On Wednesday 12th of November, the contributors to this book had been invited to a night at the Fringe bar ‘The Vault’, where they could read their poem, if they wished to do so. The gathering was even more special, because on that night there was also a great attendance of students, professors, poets and writers from abroad, in occasion of the ‘International Writers Workshop’ yearly organized by the Baptist University of Hong Kong. Therefore, this event became a joint ‘Outloud session’ for the two groups.
Gladly, Juan José Morales (one of the editors of ‘Desde Hong Kong’) and Peter Gordon (the publisher of this book and many more) were there, and we could exchange some views about the interesting multiplicity of voices.
I loved the very informal and ‘bohemian’ atmosphere of this bar, located at the Basement of ‘The Fringe Club’: an unpretentious yet charming space, with white wooden chairs and tables, a couple of sofas and white tiled walls. The most noteworthy highlight of the night was the utter spontaneity of all the poets/writers. From the Writers Workshop we had Burmese, Taiwanese, Mainland Chinese, and Filipino writers, all of them with their intriguing stories to read: essays or poems, in English or Mandarin, read with emphasis and enthusiasm, interpreted with passion. Two of my favourite poems were full of onomatopoeic sounds, and they were artistically and skillfully read. The subjects of the poems were varied, including inter-planetary matter!
Some of the poets featured into the ‘Desde Hong Kong: In Conversation with Octavio Paz’ read their compositions, (and I did it as well). I felt that it was not like ‘reciting’ another poets’ poem as I used to do at High School. The feeling was the same in terms of anxiety (as I was reading in front of the public), but even stronger in terms of recollection, as the words took me back to when I started composing it, to the meaning of it, and to the ultimate result. I find it special when someone writes a poem and then gives it his/her own voice, as the voice is the expression of the soul that ultimately he/she transferred into those words.
Towards the end of the OutLoud session, people were reading other people’s poems, even from mobile phones, and a very brave young lady with pink hair came up and recited a weird but sensational poem. The subject was ‘penis’. It was just hilarious the way she presented the poem by heart, with passion and fervor. She professionally recited it as if she were on a theatre stage. This poem was well known and acclaimed amongst her poet-friends, who belong to the ‘Peel Street Poets’ group, a group of young poets meeting on Wednesdays for weekly open mic poetry gigs ( and whom I quickly befriended on Facebook).
The evening ended on a merry note, and I went home feeling unquestionably not only happier, but also richer. The poem that you find here below is the result of this inspiring experience.
But do not forget that, if you want to hear the voice of the incredible poets I had the occasion to meet, you can still attentively listen to it here:
‘Desde Hong Kong: Poets in Conversation with Octavio Paz’ ( on sale at www.paddyfield.com , www.amazon.com, Barnes & Noble www.barnesandnoble.com and The Book Depository www.bookdepository.com ).
We listen to them daily, distractedly,
while trailing behind in our own existence,
while jogging along the riverbank of life.
Voices concerning us, or not.
Calling us or shunning us.
Asking for attention, consideration and scrutiny
or ignoring us altogether,
and just jamming in our mumbling and rumbling mind.
The voices of blithe ignorance:
jejune opinionated sounds.
Chaotic hubbub, humdrum routine, seedy noises…
Thankfully passing by us, unobserved but also undisturbed.
We shunt them off, as they sound preposterous to our ears.
Sometimes we stop though,
and we listen.
To the voices of wise and irresistible knowledge.
To the music of bewitching perception, acuity, insight.
To the warm singing of sheer affection, devotion and yearning.
To words that come from within
and just softly whisper outside.
We cannot almost hear them,
As they sound suffocated by the annoying braggadocio surrounding us.
Nonetheless we stop, enjoy, rejoice, exult, revel.
We feel exhausted and beguiled by the emotion.
All senses lost in this new conquest
and in the childish, enrapturing contentment
of spotting the only white, smooth, perfectly round pebble
on a riverbed full of rocks.
Paola Caronni 14.11.2014