Alice Notley and Polyvocality

11Jun07

Alice Notley in Buffalo (1987)

This is one of my favorites from the 1987 reading. All My Life

The following poem is from a 2006 reading in Philly: More Important… Notley’s comments at the end of the poem (“I don’t know if that’s true or not. I think about it a lot.”) create an interesting juxtaposition because the language in the poem is so adamant. I find the phrase “I think about it a lot” especially moving for reasons I can’t easily put my finger on. Maybe it’s the sharp contrast between the forcefullness of the poem and the questioning expressed in the comments. This mixture of ways of speaking gets at the frequent polyvocality in much of Notley’s writing. I like to think about the comments after Notley reads the poem “More important…” as part of the poem.

This poem and Notley’s comments on it explicitly address the idea of polyvocality (“a talkin’ voice” “a now-I’m-telling-you-this-voice”): Love Song

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