Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Got poem?

Fun fact: The first line of Beowulf is, essentially, “Listen up!” The Old English poem begins with the declaration Hwaet, an attention-getting word, a starting-the-story word. Seamus Heaney, in his formidable 1990s translation of the poem, began with “So.” Rappers and hip-hop artists could conceivably begin a version of Beowulf with “Yo!”

I’m spouting this ‘cause tonight I heard bits of Beowulf aloud, in Old English, at Story Time for Adults (go here for my first exposure to this event). Loftus invited his friend Dick Lewis, a decades-long fan of the lusty rhythm and feel of Old English poetry, to recite pieces of Beowulf and explain to the audience what he was reciting. And the guttural Germanic voice of (some of) my ancestors filled the coffee-hall, somewhat like how it would have filled a 10th-century mead hall. And his reciting made the humor, of all things, more obvious. It was rousing entertainment. People were getting into it. The young teens near me were really getting into the tearing limbs and spurting blood.

Loftus then read, for “equal time” purposes, a portion of John Gardner’s novel Grendel, starring the first monster Beowulf battles. He read the part about Grendel meeting the dragon. Lewis then recited a jaunty parody poem he wrote about Beowulf fighting Grendel, and I won’t butcher it by attempting to quote it.

A night for language. That’s always fun.
Tags: books, portland

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