By Amy Thiessen
On September 18th, Megan Butchart curated a close listening experience during which I gathered with friends, colleagues, and guests – including Daphne Marlatt and her partner Bridget MacKenzie – with the intent to listen. We first listened to the opening five minutes of a tape from the Warren Tallman Fonds in our UBCO-based SoundBox collection that was recorded at the memorial service for Charles Olson, during which Robin Blaser gives a reading from Revelations (as reflected in the piece following); we then listened to a few minutes from “Gladys Hindmarch at SGWU 1969,” which comes from the Sir George Williams Poetry Series collection at Concordia University; and finally we listened to an excerpt from a second tape in the Warren Tallman Fonds of Tallman reading a Walt Whitman poem. The experience was wonderful and moved me in many ways; here is a snapshot of my listening:
We sat listening. Some with eyes closed, others looking carefully at the carpet, our feet connecting us in a circle. I am not listening to the words, instead experiencing the voices. Reminded that there’s people on the other side of the tape, I feel a closeness, the power of voices to move effortlessly across time. In front of me is Warren Tallman and Robin Blaser, I can see their voices. They’re teaching me how to listen. Beside me — on my side of the tape — I see Daphne Marlatt, and I know she sees Warren and Robin, too. But we aren’t seeing the same people. We are sharing this experience, not having the same one. On my side of the tape there are new voices, new people, more listening. I speak about the voices and how they speak to me, I am now another voice. Eventually there’s silence. Although I do not know them, I feel them, those on both sides of the tape. My body knows their voices, and now they know mine.
Amy Thiessen is a poet, photographer, BA (Hons English) student, emerging scholar, and aspiring teacher. She also project manages the UBCO SpokenWeb research team.