The Sound of Stories (2:6)

1] In his article, “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial,” King discusses Robinson’s collection of stories. King explains that while the stories are written in English, “the patterns, metaphors, structures as well as the themes and characters come primarily from oral literature.” More than this, Robinson, he says “develops what we might want to call an oral syntax that defeats reader’s efforts to read the stories silently to themselves, a syntax that encourages readers to read aloud” and in so doing, “recreating at once the storyteller and the performance” (186). Read “Coyote Makes a Deal with King of England”, in Living by Stories. Read it silently, read it out loud, read it to a friend, and have a friend read it to you. See if you can discover how this oral syntax works to shape meaning for the story by shaping your reading and listening of the story. Write a blog about this reading/listening experience that provides references to the story.


I thought that this blog prompt was particularly interesting. I don’t know much about oral syntax, but it did remind me about an experience with poetry that I had in class a few years ago. The class was exploring slam poetry, and we were given a printed out poem to read: a version of Neil Hilborn’s OCD. 

We read it as a class and discussed how the poem seemed–most people said it was nice, but the general consensus was that the poem, though sometimes eloquent, was nothing special. Then, my instructor had us watch a video of Hilborn performing his piece, and asked us what we thought of it. We all agreed that the piece came alive in its intended oral medium, and concluded that slam poetry is distinct from regular poetry because of how it is supposed to be processed.

When I first read Robinson’s piece silently, I wasn’t too impressed. While he had some really interesting lines, most of them fell flat in my reading and felt really repetitive. I didn’t get caught up in the language, and wasn’t engaged by the storyline. Reading it out loud and to my friend didn’t really have a better effect–I am not great at reading out loud, and I definitely didn’t do Robinson’s work justice.

The friend who I read the piece to is from a town in Georgia, and as such, she has a pretty thick Southern US accent. She (very graciously) agreed to read Robsion’s piece back to me, and the experience completely changed. What I found repetitive in my reading of the piece now became lyrical. I was able to appreciate the alliteration within the piece, as it was much more obvious when heard than it was when read silently.

What was the most interesting for me about this experience was the contrast between hearing it read out loud and reading it out loud myself. I wasn’t sure why there was such a difference in my appreciation of the piece–after all, I heard it both times, and my reading, though clumsy, wasn’t too different from my friends, so what exactly altered my appreciation of Robinson’s work? After rereading it a few times, I realized it’s because, when hearing it be read by someone else, I was able to forget that the piece was written at all. I got to hear it in its intended form, instead of it being translated into something more “accessible”, but ultimately far less powerful.



Button Poetry. Neil Hilborn – “OCD”. 2013. Youtube. Web. 19 June 2015.

“The City of Statesboro.” Home. Web. 19 June 2015.


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