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Saturday 18 February 2012


The shock is almost universal, I am told.
It's like the way the tongue recoils,
exploring in the mouth where teeth have been extracted.
This isn't me, I'm not like that! The cry is silent, but it's there
and there again on hearing your own voice the way that others do.

I'd written a few poems - one or two across the years,
but kept them under wraps. That was before
I'd made that tape of me for the school play, would not believe
that I could sound like that. The tape machine was faulty! Must have been.

Some time soon after that a friend had read the poems
and had said: They're fine - or will be when you find your voice!
And did that mean the voice I'd heard was not the true one after all?
I'd no desire to find it if it might be one like that!
It's like your face, I thought: God in his mercy stationed you behind it.
Just be sorry for the folk who have to see it all the time,
and thankful that you don't - until some gadget (mirror, tape recorder)
forces them upon you. But whoever went in search of his own face?
Why should I seek my voice? Where would I look? What did he mean?

Style, someone said, but surely more than that. I've learned since then
that it's whatever in the verse is part of you, what makes the poem yours
and guarantees no other could have written it. You cannot search for that.
It comes with practice and maturity. We mimic others first, and who we are
eludes us on the page - until one day it's there and stares us in the face.
Or so I'm told. The trick must lie in how to recognise yourself
when you meet you. Discover who you are. I thought a while it meant
to have a single theme, a piece of ground you've made your own.
I wanted none of that. But no, that's not the voice. It's not a limitation,
it's a freedom to be you. But there are other voices who will say,
Your early works were better. Go back to them. Be warned to stay.


jabblog said...

I think this will resonate with many of us but individuality will come to the fore. 'This above all: to thine own self be true.'

Lovely writing, Dave.

Daydreamertoo said...

I've never written in anyone else's style but my own. To copy someone else isn't your own voice. I'm glad you decided to stay true to you and not listen. As a young teen I tried to seem well read and read Burns, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, but, most of the time, I never could understand what they were trying to say. probably because I was too young. But, I decided it had to be my words, my way. Glad you did too :)

Mary said...

Interesting, Dave. And you do have a distinct voice. I think if there were five poems presented to me with no names I could quite easily pick which one was written by you. I feel the same about Daydreamer's poetry (who posted a response already). We do find our voice somehow as we write, and it is as individual as our handwriting, I think. We are who we are.

(On another note, you undoubtedly noticed that I used the quote you used in one response to me in yesterday's poem- "Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief." I have really been thinking about that on many levels & want to thank you. In fact, I am going back into the blog and crediting you there.)

Brian Miller said...

i def think you have a distinct voice as well...i understand what they are saying...i think that voice is the one inside you that says where you stand or wha tyou are willing to stand on, what it is your eyes fall to in a given circumstance...the way you say things...it took me a while to find mine...

Manicddaily said...

This dichotomy of voices, styles, early late, is interesting. I personally can't imagine looking for my voice--it's there whether I want it or not. Usually not--I'm one like you that can't stand the voice on the tape and tries to imagine the machine is broken. For me, I look for the poem and worry that if there is too much of my own voice, it's probably whiny.

I find voice a much bigger issue in writing fiction actually. There, because I have to sustain it and make it interesting and distinct.

I love the parts about mirror and tape. On iPad so a little incoherent. K.

Tabor said...

This says it all. Finding that voice of truth and then having to listen to it can be scary. That is probably why we try to talk in another's voice most times. Their voice sounds so right and surely ours is incomplete.

Titus said...

Yes, that is interesting. As for the conclusion, I don't think you can go back.
But back to the much lauded and applauded notion of 'voice' in poetry. Unlike Mary, I think I'd find it hard to identify 5 poems of yours blind, as you can be particularly diverse in style, approach and, yes, voice. I frequently read things here that suprise me.
I suppose I'm suggesting that voice is not static, or something you 'achieve'. Its presence in a poem is not always necessary either.

Isabel Doyle said...

Don't you love advice? Poetry advice is almost as useful (in general) as the person who stands behind your easel and says that tree is in the wrong place ...

So glad you didn't let the tape-recorder put you off.

Isabel x

Rose said...

*chuckles* really enjoyed this piece and I particularly love the humour of 'Its like your face ...God in his mercy stationed you behind it. Just be sorry for the folk who have to see it all the time,and thankful you don't'. Brilliant! It is the other voices indeed (the self appointed critics) that destroy creativity :D

Rachna Chhabria said...

I always envy you your poetry writing skills. You are super.

Tom Atkins said...

Oh my, I DO like this one a lot!

Jenny Woolf said...

Your voice is individual and cannot be faked, that's why I follow your blog and almost no other poetry blogs.

Or did you mean your physical voice? That CAN be a shock. Like seeing yourself on film.

ds said...

"how to recognize yourself/when you meet you" That's it, isn't it. (still searching, here) I'm so glad that you did and do. Tape recorders are not for the faint of heart ; )

Windsmoke. said...

Finding our own individual voice and discovering who we are is the tricky bit, but do we ever find and discover them on our own? :-).

Elephant's Child said...

Recognising our voice is one difficult task, and learning to believe in it and/or like it is another.
Thank you. This got me thinking - which is always a good thing.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Ah yes Dave, finding one's voice - always a difficult one to do and even to define. I think you are doing very well indeed at finding yours.

Dave King said...

Big apology for not being able to get round to answer everybody personally. If you have looked at my post for today, you will know that it is because we are celebrating our younger grandson's twenty first - which is actually on Wednesday. There still are preparations to be made and so time is short.

A shame that it should have let it fall on this post because there are fascinating replies from you all. Mostly I agree with what has been said, particularly re looking for your voice. The poem is really located in a period of time in which I was trying to write seriously for the first time. The concept of "voice" was new to me, and initially I took it literally - hence the comparison with voice on the tape recorder. Now I see it as very close to individuality, and, as I put in the poem, that which the poem gets, and could only get, from some essential aspect of its author. I wouldn't dream of trying to find it, but sometimes - quite rarely - I think I recognise it.

Ygraine said...

Isn't it strange how we so often feel unsure of ourselves and our talents, yet never doubt those of others?
Perhaps it is down to our upbringing, 'Always put others before yourself!' Hehe :)

Mary said...

Dave, you definitely should recognize it. You DO have it.

Please read my recent post on 'word verification.' It is really hard to respond to your posts. I posted it on Sunday......