29 December 2012

Mr. Walken and Mr. Poe: an unlikely relationship

I have been undergoing a love affair with Edgar Allan Poe for many years now, but upon receiving a gorgeous, Coptic-bound edition of The Raven from my mother this Christmas, I found myself swooning over poem and poet once more as though for the first time.

This fangirl-y reawakening led me to the memorization of the poem [I'm currently 3 stanzas down] and to elocution practice so that my reading of it will sound as effective and eloquent as possible [much to the chagrin of my poetry-stunted family]. Naturally, I also took to youtube to see how such greats as Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and James Earl Jones went about reciting the old classic. None failed to make me swoon.

However, I also stumbled across a reading by Christopher Walken. You may know this actor from his unfortunate appearances on Saturday Night Live, where his line, "Needs more cowbell!" has been tragically immortalized by the Internet. Or, perhaps, his name immediately conjures the image of a man in WWII uniform holding a watch, as he was seen in Pulp Fiction. Hopefully, however, you immediately think of his Oscar-nominated role in The Deer Hunter or even his brief but memorable part in Woody Allen's Annie Hall [mostly because such remembrances would speak greatly for your state as well-cultured in the arts].

But however you are familiar Christopher Walken, it is doubtful that your mind immediately jumps to "poetry" at the mention of his name! I myself was rather stunned when I found this video. But have a listen. Note how his famous, New York-accented voice is somehow perfectly befitted to quoting Poe's immortal lines. Notice how the pauses and inflections and tiny emotions in his speech make listening to the poem interesting and different. Take heed to the casual way he reads the poem, as though he is merely retelling the goings-on of the previous evening. And all to those sound-effects in the background! Isn't it marvelous? Doesn't it suddenly drop the presupposition that only British people can sound good reading poetry? Honestly, I have been absolutely enthralled by this reading for the last few days--I can't listen to it enough times!

In short, not only is The Raven the best poem ever, but Christopher Walken will never cease to amaze me. [My surprise at his impressive dancing skills has now been surpassed.]

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