I’ve Got Nerve: Poetry Out Loud

The other day I was talking with a friend about writings and recitations from childhood. He had just rediscovered a wonderful Christmas story that his daughter had written when she was all of 11 years old, and I had re-encountered a hilarious recording of ten-year-old me reciting Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem In The Morning. My neighbor said “post it on your blog” and I laughed.

Then yesterday, courtesy of About Last Night, I was directed to Verse By Voice, a poetry meme of sorts at Coudal Partners, where people call in, recite a favorite poem, and some get chosen for posting on the web site. Laura Demanski, a/k/a OGIC/Terry Teachout’s co-blogger, is among those selected; she’s reciting Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Spring and Fall: to a Young Child.

I don’t know if any of my colleagues in the blogosphere have any old recordings (poetry, songs, instrumentals, radio air-checks…) from days of yore, but if they do, I hope they will follow suit and post some…it seems a fun spin-off idea. So here I go — and when you fall out laughing, please remember that I was only ten and attempting, without any relevant experience, to impart the dialect in which Dunbar wrote.

(If you’re not familiar with the poem, you might want to read it first or follow along — I found the text online at Poetry Archives, a site created “to provide a simple interface into a dynamicially generated, database driven website archiving thousands of copyright free poems.”)

In the Morning
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

‘Lias! ‘Lias! Bless de Lawd!
Don’ you know de day’s erbroad?
Ef you don’ git up, you scamp,
Dey’ll be trouble in dis camp.
T’ink I gwine to let you sleep
W’ile I meks yo’ boa’d an’ keep?
Dat’s a putty howdy-do–
Don’ you hyeah me, ‘Lias–you?

Bet ef I come crost dis flo’
You won’ fin’ no time to sno’.
Daylight all a-shinin’ in
W’ile you sleep–w’y hit’s a sin!
Ain’t de can’le-light enough
To bu’n out widout a snuff,
But you go de mo’nin’ thoo
Bu’nin’ up de daylight too?

‘Lias, don’ you hyeah me call?
No use tu’nin’ to’ds de wall;
I kin hyeah dat mattuss squeak;
Don’ you hyeah me w’en I speak?
Dis hyeah clock done struck off six–
Ca’line, bring me dem ah sticks!
Oh, you down, suh; huh, you down–
Look hyeah, don’ you daih to frown.

Ma’ch you’se’f an’ wash yo’ face,
Don’ you splattah all de place;
I got somep’n else to do,
‘Sides jes’ cleanin’ aftah you.
Tek dat comb an’ fix yo’ haid–
Looks je’ lak a feddah baid.
Look hyeah, boy, I let you see
You sha’n’t roll yo’ eyes at me.

Come hyeah; bring me dat ah strap!
Boy, I’ll whup you ‘twell you drap;
You done felt yo’se’f’ too strong,
An’ you sholy got me wrong.
Set down at dat table thaih;
Jes’ you whimpah ef you daih!
Evah mo’nin’ on dis place,
Seem lak I mus’ lose my grace.

Fol’ yo’ han’s an’ bow yo’ haid–
Wait ontwell de blessin’ ‘s said;
“Lawd, have mussy on ouah souls–
(Don’ you daih to tech dem rolls–)
“Bless de food we gwine to eat–”
(You set still–I see yo’ feet;
You jes’ try dat trick agin!)
“Gin us peace an’ joy. Amen!”