Sometimes great writing is absorbed best through the ears, not the eyes, as bedtime stories and poetry slams prove. A recent episode of Poetry Off the Shelf—a Poetry Foundation podcast distributed by NPR—featured an organization called From the Fishouse that really drives that point home.
From the Fishouse is an audio archive of emerging poets reading their own works; it takes its name from the tiny writing shack that belonged to Lawrence Sargent Hall. The Poetry Off the Shelf episode featured a Fishouse recording of West Virginian poet and cabinetmaker Steve Scafidi reading “To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire.” Poetry like Scafidi’s is the perfect raw material for audio, packed with passion and powerful images: “You were miles away and I, like the woodsman of fairy tales, / threatened all with my bright ax shining with the evil / joy of vengeance and mad hunger to bring harm—heavy / harm—to the coward who did this….”
Listening to Scafidi speak about a stranger invading his property is especially evocative with the sound of chickens clucking in the background; the poet had retreated to the quietest spot on his property, his coop, to record. One other nice thing about From the Fishouse recordings is they’re the perfect length for antsy lit lovers like me who lack the patience to sit through entire audio books.