One of the fifteen or so podcasts I subscribe to is Nate DeMeo's The Memory Palace. I'm a fan of DeMeo's writing and narration. He uses wonderful phrases and language.
Usually, his episodes only last for maybe seven minutes or so, but on the eve of Election Day he released an unusually long episode. Nate DeMeo recorded a recitation of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself (it's apparently a special bonus, so it doesn't appear on his website; you'll have to check the iTunes feed yourself for it), a full 98 minutes worth of nineteenth century poetry action.
Now, since I usually listen to podcasts while driving, this episode became especially challenging to make it past the first ten minutes. Maybe blame social media for short attention spans. Maybe blame our education system for abandoning classical education. Maybe blame me for being born with a century and a half of language evolution between me and this poem. But for whatever reason, the poem was lost to me. The language was lost to me.
This afternoon, I decided to give it a fourth and final try. I was at home, lying on my bed, so I had the advantage of being able to read along with DeMeo as he read aloud. And it worked, sort of. Of course my mind wandered. I'm not used to paying that much attention to one thing for so long. But some of it came through. And what did make it through was beautiful. At least, the first half of the poem. I'll come back to the rest at some other time.
I've been struggling to get this latest Random Waves episode completed. Right now, I'm trying to write it. I abandoned my first two drafts pretty quickly. I'm making the same mistakes I made with episode 1 -- too much chronological buildup before the key moment. The idea of getting to the point is apparently foreign to me, or at least uncommon. It makes me a bit worried, quite frankly.
But then I hear something like Song of Myself, and I hear how it is recited so evocatively, and it makes me want to write better. To give you something better.
There were a few times I felt this way. Once was when I saw the guitarist from a band called Spiritual Rez, this tiny man with gigantic dreadlocks, take on a very wild solo. Once was when I saw a troupe called Taiko Za play at Hartford's riverfront. And once was when I heard a monologue from Mike Daisey. I want to perform. I want to perform well. But can I write well-enough to perform well?