David McCooey’s first collection of poems, Blister pack (Salt Publishing, 2005), won the Mary Gilmore Award, and was shortlisted for four other major awards. His third collection, Outside, was recently published by Salt Publishing. David McCooey is also a prize-winning critic, whose work on Australian poetry and life writing has been widely published. His ‘poetry soundtracks’ have appeared in various journals, and have been broadcast on 3RRR and ABC Radio National’s ‘Poetica’ program. David McCooey was the Deputy General Editor of the prize-winning Macquarie PEN anthology of Australian literature (Allen & Unwin, 2009), and he is Associate Professor in literary studies/professional and creative writing at Deakin University, Geelong.

Four sound poems

Accompanying the essay 'Fear of music: Sounded poetry and the "poetry soundtrack"'

Like the film soundtrack, the poetry soundtrack employs a mix of voice, music, and sound design. Here are four examples —‘A.M.’, ‘Another Dream’, ‘Another A.M. Dream’, and ‘Car’.

The poetry soundtrack occupies a surprisingly ignored sonic space between the avant-garde sound poem and documentary recordings of a poet’s unaccompanied voice. The poetry soundtrack adapts and extends the possibilities of the typographic poem. It also illustrates the important connections between typographic and recorded poetry: the ghostliness of poetic voices; the musicality inherent in lyric poetry; the simultaneous mimetic and non-mimetic rendering of speech; and the ways in which voice is ‘staged’ through techniques of intensification.

Fear of music: Sounded poetry and the ‘poetry soundtrack’

This essay proposes the term ‘poetry soundtrack’ for a form of sounded poetry that I have been practising for some years (examples of which can be found in this issue of Axon). The poetry soundtrack is a sonic object made up of original poetry, music, and sound design. Such a form is now being produced—under various names—by numerous poets, thanks to the development of the Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW). In my essay, I argue that the poetry soundtrack has occupied an aesthetic no man’s land between avant-garde ‘sound poetry’ and documentary-style recordings of poetry readings. I propose that a general ‘fear of music’ has led critics to favour such forms, and concomitantly to ignore musico-poetic forms of sounded poetry. In addition, I analyse the ‘digital poetics’ that can be found in producing sounded poetry with a DAW, especially with regard to the ‘vocal staging’ that such technology can produce in the poetry soundtrack.