Jim Bishop Reads | Vox Audio

Recorded in Bangor, Maine in 2006

JIM BISHOP READS, by Jim Bishop; Vox Audio, Magdalena, N.M., 2007; “Jim Bishop Reads,” a recording of 23 poems made in 2006 by University of Maine English instructor Jim Bishop, revises a previous CD, “Jim Bishop Reads from Mother Tongue,” that was pieced together in 1994 from decades-old recordings and whose distribution was very limited, at the author’s insistence. Bishop’s concern over the quality, not only of the recordings but of the readings, is a key point. Most of the poems on this CD are from Bishop’s book “Mother Tongue,” published in Portland by Contraband Press in 1975. The poems on the earlier CD had been copied from aged cassette tapes; the sound quality was extremely uneven, and so were the performances.

The tracks on this new CD are much cleaner, and the readings, made in June 2006 and uninterrupted by interstitial chatter, have a consistency of articulation and intonation not present before. The poems are even-handedly offered on their own merit, which is significant. The poems from “Mother Tongue,” though more than 30 years old, are well-wrought, introspective, playful, sometimes emotionally knotted, always contemplative depictions of the outer and inner life of one Mainer and many. They resonate on this CD more than ever. In poetry aloud, we have the advantage of hearing the music — the rhythms and pitches — intended to carry those depictions beyond the meanings grasped by the rational brain, and into the heart.

Bishop’s subdued, thoughtful, careful reading intensifies the temperate, surprised, affectionate and sometimes bewildered emotional tone of the poems: were it music i would always almost always play soft my dynamic gradations of piano i would want you bending toward me opens the selection, and the voice develops this theme aloud through descriptions of Maine places, Greek places and Mainers’ sensibilities — “most often they stand” about fishermen talking on the shore; “sentenced to this tongue” about a dream of a beloved son during a sojourn on a Greek island; and the extraordinary “Final Exam,” a dreamlike meditation on imagination, sentimentality and death, not a “Mother Tongue” poem. “Jim Bishop Reads,” like its recent Vox Audio predecessor “Burt Hatlen: New Poems,” is a gratifying glimpse into another of Maine’s resident poets who shared little of his poetry in the local limelight, but has greatly illuminated the whereabouts of those with the patience to wait for the highest available quality. Jim Bishop lives in Bangor and still teaches part time at the University of Maine.

Bishop poetry recordings resonate more than ever. —  Dana Wilde


listen to Jim Bishop | where it music 

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