Reading the whole of the Prelude is a daunting enterprise. In this short post I am going to direct you to some readers who explain why it is, well, necessary. You might say that moving up from “I wandered lonely etc” to a full reading of the Prelude is like moving on from Smooth Classics at 7 to listening to Beethoven’s late string quartets:
We allow that people will get together to perform music. Why do we not accept that poetry should be performed in a similar way?
If we don’t perform poetry we are condemning reading to being a sedentary and solitary pursuit. If the only poetry that is performed is linked to celebrity it has a tendency to slip off into the kind of adulation and “pop” culture that detracts from its essential qualities. Its music. My project for reading in Asturias is intended to bring people who read together to perform texts that are important to them. But enough about me! Have a look at some of these resources. They are well-worth checking out.
I like Tess Somerwell’s style of writing here. I am sure she is an accomplished academic but it is clear that she reads for other reasons than to pursue her career. This is an issue I shall explore in a coming blog post that talks about why all good reading is essentially anti-authoritarian. It is one of those issues that would be very good to talk about over dinner with the ghost of Wordsworth hovering around.
Romantic Circles is another blog that draws our attention to what they call a “marathon reading” of the Prelude. I like this blog. It is full of fascinating corners where you can mooch around and pick up tidbits of information. The Gallery section is well-worth dipping into if you are just browsing, but if you are more serious the articles are well-researched and intelligent.
The original reading is available at the University of Cambridge website. You will notice that the statistics for the number of readers go down to almost half by the time they get to Book Thirteen. I can understand this. It is not that pleasurable listening with a computer and, even if you download it to listen to on the train, you do not get the full resonance of a performance. But I bet it was a life-changing experience for those taking part!
Enjoy exploring. And sign up for August if you can make it. It will be an event in your life of reading!