When I first began posting my work at soundcloud.com—I think this was in April, 2011—I quickly learned that the way to find people who interested me and who might want to hear what I was doing was to join groups. When I began to search for poetry groups Mark Goodwin’s Air to Hear was the richest and most promising.
This is where I first encountered Mark’s recorded poetry. My initial impression, aside from liking his writing, was that his readings were a little stilted and over-enunciated and that the sounds (we have to hear them more as audio construct than as music in the conventional sense) were not entirely connected to the reading but just floating in the background.
Partly this had to do with it being my first encounter with other artists doing the type of work that I’d been doing but with an entirely different aesthetic and intellectual agenda. We aren’t doing Poetronica or Hip Hop, there is no unifying style, no fashion, no conformity. We’re almost all working on our own in the isolation of our own homes, almost working in a void, each of us developing our own approach to the medium. We’ve drifted as a natural extension of recording readings of our poetry or we’ve heard the idea of mixing poetry and sound or music but have heard few examples, so what each of us comes up with tends to be idiosyncratic.
Partly it had to do with an American tradition of poetry reading versus a UK tradition. I’ve heard other UK writers since then with a similarly exaggerated enunciation, a precision of locution I cannot imagine coming from an American mouth. I have no way of connecting this to a social situation, no way of understanding how the style of reading developed.…Too much of what I’ve heard in the United States tends to veer toward a lecturn/pulpit pomposity, toward a soapbox self-righteousness, or toward an overly sincere, heartstrings kind of prepared group confessional simultaneously whining and manipulative…or like someone is just reading it off the page with an almost total lack of expression.
To a lesser extent, I think this also had to do with Mark testing the possibilities of the medium and feeling a little self-conscious with the whole operation. I think if you’re singing a pop song you listen to whether or not you’re doing it well but you don’t question the process itself. When you’re close to creating a new medium (we aren’t, but it’s uncommon enough that it sometimes feels that we are) you just have to stand back from your work and just wonder what the hell you’re doing.
Over the past two years I’ve heard well over seventy-five of his recordings—I’ve listened to most of them several times, both to get more out of them and just for the simple pleasure of hearing them. I think the change has been subtle but I’ve been hearing a level of comfort in his more recent posts, which I assume are more recent recordings (though I could be wrong). And, to my ear, it seems the sounds are more a part of the composition and less mere background. I think Mark has always had it in mind to make a complete composition but now it seems that there’s a better glue being used. On the piece he just posted this week the words and sounds are almost inseparable. Not that the words are an inferior work without the sounds, but they would now be an entirely different work.