| Straight from the writer’s mouth
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29 Aug Straight from the writer’s mouth

YouTube, that ubiquitous video sharing site, is also a literary treasure trove in disguise. How does this very visual site lend itself to the written word, you might ask? YouTube is home to hours of spoken word clips, user-made videos set to recordings of author and thousands of interviews with that wiley and elusive figure – the writer.

User-generated content is nothing new, but thus far my YouTube consumption has been limited to a diet of hilarious/inappropriate/crazy/ I-can’t-believe-they-did-that clips. However, a little digging unearthed some interesting tidbits of literary goodness.

YouTube has two kinds of videos set to poems or prose – the first is an actual visual narrative that accompanies the words; and the second is a collection of images fading in and out  – often a sort of collage of the author’s life.

One of my favourite examples of the visual narrative video is Tonight I can write the saddest lines, by Pablo Neruda. Read (somewhat monotonously) by actor Andy Garcia, the video is beautiful – grey and grainy and whimsical. The image of the empty porch swing, rocking alone, lingers. You can read the poem en Espanol too – but the Beethoven in the background of this clip makes it too sacchrine for my tastes.

Another pretty video accompanies Robert Bly’s Stealing Sugar from the Castle. This is dubbed a “film poem,” in the accompanying information, and is created by a company called Four Season Productions for a series called RANT*RAVE*RIFF. I don’t love all of these interpretations, but it’s an interesting project nonetheless.

Here are a couple picks on the biographical montage side of things – I picked these based on the richness of the reading. Charles Bukowski’s Bluebird is worth a listen – it’s always interesting to hear a poet’s cadence as they read their work. I also like The Secret of my Endurance – especially the audience’s laughter, and the piano plonks that end the clip.

For aural richness, it’s hard to beat the legendary Leonard Cohen. Listen to him read Days of Kindness (oh, that voice!) and A Thousand Kisses Deep, which has no real video, but oh, that voice…

YouTube offers up interviews with every author imaginable, and I think it would take a lifetime to go through them all. But I like this clip of legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury talking about writing – and happiness.

There are also hundreds of interviews with Kurt Vonnegut, as well as quite a few tributes to him created after his death in 2007. Some of them are quite touching – search the site for Vonnegut to see a list of them.

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