Visionary Voices Read Aloud: John Milton's Paradise Lost – 22 Jul 2020

This Week: Book XI.

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@Geoffrey_Edwards and @johnnydavis54, I have been reviewing our video set up. Please note the Zoom link for this meeting. Either of these will work: —>

(This is not the same link as for the alternative-week Savitri reading.)

There should not be password or waiting room for this link, but you will need to be logged into Zoom. If you have trouble getting on, please leave a message here and I will be checking near the beginning of our session to provide help if needed.

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Hi John,
We’re here. Need a hand? Shall we wait for you, or try next week (a 5th Wednesday)?

I had to reset my password. It not asks what my id or personal link name. What is that? It says nothing I use is valid. Maybe you guys should drift off without me.

i have logged in but another id is required. I don’t get it.

click the link again:

I mentioned this Erik Davis podcast in our conversation. I am interested in reading out loud poets who were the voice of their generation. Merrill came out of the silent generation, so I find his allusiveness intriguing. A master of the opague. This is very challenging for the actor.

I have mixed feelings about the Quartets because I know them so well. I do like studying in groups a poet that is off the beaten track. I think reading one his plays- Murder in the Cathedral, Family Reunion, would be fun. and something different. I am reluctant to do Homer for the same reason. I know all of that so well. But Dante’s Paradiso I don’t know at all. I have done the Inferno enough. I would like to do out loud Fagel’s translation of Virgil’s Anead.

Poetry in translation is tricky. A poor translation sucks. I have a new translation of Zarathustra that I would love to do out loud. The old translations are so bad. It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing.

Rilke is another fascinating character but I would like to do Orpheus for it is so weird. He speaks of the tree in the ear. What a magical mind! Also Paul Celan is amazing, breathtaking. Baudelaire could be great fun, too. There is a recent translation that won some prizes. Geoffrey reads French so we could do back to back readings. Marco could do that with Lorca, too, or some other Spanish poet. I love Bolano and read a lot of his novels but not much of his poetry. I love Machado and Octavio Paz and would love to explore some of the Spanish mystics-St. John of the Cross. Wow! I think a transnational poetics is very interesting.

Very drawn to Guy Davenport, Willis Barnstone, Daryl Hines. near contemporaries with smart, complex poetics that work well with the voice. These are off the beaten track. If a poet has been recited by many persons I am less inclined to take up group time around what has already been explored. I am fond of the hidden and more occult work of great poets, the stuff that is hidden in the attic. Pessoa is one of my favorites.

Also, I’d love to do an old classic like Wordsworth’s Prelude. Wordsworth and Coleridge are great for the voice.

I am open to persuasion, however, and as Marco said, we can play around with different kinds of texts, and figure out how it lands in the cultural landscapes that we are devising. What motifs or themes do you wish to take with you into the next world? This world is crumbling very quickly.


So many options! I’m quite open to The Changing Light at Sandover as well as some of the other texts, including in French and Spanish. We might also invite @Dona back to read more of Adonis or other poetry in Arabic… though I’m quite sure a lot is lost in the translation. Nonetheless, a good translation opens up worlds.

I have had a mentally busy day, so will need to feel into the field of possibilities over the weekend. I much enjoyed our reading yesterday and my perineum is still vibrating! I wonder when or if it will become possible, as a constellation of resonating receptors, triangulating our third ears, to channel some poetic alter-voices from the other side.

Perhaps we will open up new signal-spaces through our next phases of exploration…

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I am working, Marco, out of the infinite possibles a livable actuality. If we have an adequate frame we can shift between foreground and background, move between pelvis and heart, heart to head. A frame creates a capacity for theater.

Watch this speech by AOC. As a student of discourse analysis, her verbal and non-verbals are worth studying. Where is her voice coming from?

I submit that her voice blends pelvis, heart, head. She is a young person, her voice is coming from an ancient place, speaking from a resonant body to a resonant world. She is speaking to an ethical community, with roots that come out of a deep, widely shared history. And her words are as alive as her opponents words are deadly. These are the kind of social poetics that our third ears need to be attuned to.

To quote from the late Michael Brooks," I don’t want to be a subculture. I want to be pre–mainstream. It is important to distinguish program from rhetoric."

So, I am not into the hidden so that it stays there. I want to bring forth that which within and let it shine. Then we would be giving birth to our images.

Unjust, powerful Patriarchs will begin to tremble for they speak with forked tongues . After AOC’s wisdom speech, they will have to stop hiding behind their daughters and their wives., while promoting misogyny and violence. I hope we can create conditions for a new kind of human, a new kind of world. Can we catch the vibe, the vibe that is moving from periphery to center and back to periphery? If the center cannot hold, we are in big trouble.


Thanks for the clip, John. I had been meaning to watch this one, and it’s strong on its own, but your remarks amplify the resonance. I have a wife and daughters, but I would not want them to be anyone’s human shield. Rather, I’d wish for them to be as powerfully present and composed as AOC in this clip facing down male-pattern aggression in the very same halls of power which that aggression and ambition built.

I appreciate that she also recognizes here that it is possible to be a good man, who nonetheless (like all humans, going back to the Garden) is bound to fall into error, but can rectify his ways. This is of course what we need to do as a people and species, if we are ever to make it collectively back to that mythical Garden and together taste the fruit of that good Tree of Life.


Hello Marco and everyone,

Sure, I would love to read more Adonis’ poems with you. I am also interested in joining reading other poetry texts, especially Wordsworth, as I would love to revisit his poems.

Let me know and if anything is planned for poetry reading I would love to join.


We could do that, Dona, and it’s nice to hear from you. Wordsworth would be such a soothing voice in the midst of such chaos in our social worlds. Of course, he was dealing with the French Revolution and the beginnings of Industrialization. Nature was an antidote to the big city of London. I would love to do a group read of The Prelude. We can also look at some shorter works. Might be fun to read Lyrical Ballads.

I thought it might be fun to take up translation. One speaker who knows French could recite in the French. Anlther speaker can recite in English translation. Then we can sort of imagine what is happening in between the two spoken versions. I read an experiment once when a teacher asked the children to translate a poem in a language they did not know. She asked them to just make a good guess about what the foreign language means. The weird thing is that these guesses had odd resonances with the poem. I find this kind of guesswork extremely interesting, as if the poem has a morphogenetic field . As a person who is only competent in English I find this an odd practice, tuning into the sounds of another language, trying to catch a rhythm .


Great to hear from you too Johnny. I agree with you, we definitely need poetry and beauty in all this craziness. The idea of also reciting different translations would be an interesting experience, to hear the same poem in different languages.


It’s good to hear from you, Dona. I hope you are well.

We have one more Canto of Milton left, then will be open to begin experimenting. I would certainly be happy to read Wordsworth, as well as some of the other options we’ve discussed, such as Adonis, James Merrill, and poetry in translation from French, Spanish, Arabic, or other languages that any participant has a facility in.

Perhaps one way we can get feel for which direction to go is to have some sessions where we each of us takes turns sharing shorter works that we choose… perhaps even works with some commonality, or on a particular theme. Then we could explore what synergies arise from the admixture of various poetic voices.

Then after a spell of that, we might settle on a longer work to read and go deep into a particular voice and vision. The possibilities are vast.

Hello Marco, Sounds interesting to do sessions and take turns on reading short works. We can even read a long work during different sessions. And as you said the possibilities are vast.

I would suggest that you pick a poet that you wish to champion, whether they are alive or dead. There are many poets I love, like, admire-way too many. Many poets that are very good do not move me. There are some poets that drive me up a wall but that I can’t stop reading, like Gertrude Stein.

" Give us this day our daily doubts
And forgive us our love even as
We forgive your hate."
Jack Spicer

Although I have two collections of Spicer’s work, I can’t find the poem this line comes from. I have searched the web without results. He was a gay man, who died of alcoholism, in the early 60s. He is published and has recordings of his own performances. In the line quoted, and in other weird experiments, you can hear a strong Gnostic current. He was, as I am currently, trying to re-create a faliled relationship to God as Father. I am drawn to God as Stranger. And so I believe was Spicer…

This is the kind of thing I hope we can present to each other. What are the poems or poets that you cant’ do without?

Spicer’s last words, in the hospital, dying of liver damage, " My vocabulary did this to me." Then to his friend, Robin Blaser, he said," Love will get you through." Blaser, who reported this episode, was a fine poet/critic that I also am wild about. It is these kinds of relationships, which these two men had, that are crucially important for the evolution of this art form.


Great to be able to fully participate online again. It has been a year since this and Savitri readings began. So much has changed. The last time I had a chance to participate in the Milton reading, our devilish reading voices set off the fire alarm at the local college library. Now it is soon finished … wonder where our voices are led.

I enjoy being your internet caddy, John but alas … I too searched the web and only found fragments of the poem. It is entitled “The Chess Game” in a collection called One Night Stand … I do not know whether these are the beginning lines and the full body of the poem ( the […] represents possible gaps in the poem).

“Yes, we are curved now and all the arcs/Are round with envy./We move counterclockwise toward another Wonderland” […bishops, knights, and rooks look down…] “on the brave little pawns/That march in solemn column toward the curve/That leads below the chessboard.” […] “Where are the players?” “ Perhaps they pray” “Give us this day our daily doubts/And forgive us our love even as/We forgive your hate."

I love the final lines … it is reminiscent of AOC’s speech you posted elsewhere.


Thank you so much, Doug, for finding these fragments. In the lines that you quote I hear the echo of Hart Crane, another alcoholic, gay man, who threw himself overboard,somewhere in the Caribbean his body never found. Could there be a pattern operating in these two young men’s troubled lives? Poetry might be a dangerous calling. You and I, Doug, are becoming the poetry detectives!


I think this is a great way to approach it, and I am beginning to imagine who I would most love to champion. A Nicaraguan poet comes to mind, who I might try to translate for the occasion. I also think poets we’re curious about, that we are unfamiliar with but find intriguing, would be good to explore. For example, I have an interesting slim volume from Joseph Brodsky that I haven’t yet had a chance to mind meld with.

And there are some contemporary poets, such as Layli Long Soldier, Eve L. Ewing, Fred Moten, and Kadijha Queen, whom I’ve read only a little of (or seen read in person in the latter case), but enough to make me know I want to read more. @hfester probably would have a plethora of names to bring forth.

If we could share poems that mean something to us, the way a dreaming circle shares dreams, we might learn something deeper about the social-imaginal field that transcends yet informs us individually, while nourishing our creative projects.

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