Most people secretly wish they were pirates. It’s just true. But until now, the jury was out on the modern-day appeal of ostracized sailors forced to wear gigantic maritime birds around their necks.
Leave it to BAM to clarify the matter. People around the world have been submitting readings of an excerpt from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to BAM’s Record Your Rime project, initiated in conjunction with Fiona Shaw’s much-anticipated performance of the work (running through Dec. 22 at the BAM Harvey Theater). The results, which you can listen to here, are fantastic.
Who are these closeted sailor-thespians among us? Many are lit lovers by trade, like Jynne Dilling Martin, poet-in-residence of Antarctica; Kathy Zarker, age 84, who teaches English at her Chapel Hill retirement home; and Justine Kilkerr from Brighton, England, who recently published a novel.
Then there’s Cassidy Phillips from Wales, whose voice sounds like a cross between a rusty hinge and a character from The Dark Crystal; Carolyne Mason, who whispered the poem from Malaysia; and eight-year-old Lucy Foster from Harlem, who assertively reminds us that, on this particular misadventure, there wasn’t a drop to drink. A class from Brooklyn Friends School even rapped a version over “Paper Planes” by MIA.
You’ll want to listen to all of the versions. But your first stop should be BAM’s crowd-sourced Frankenpoem, stitched together from 44 of the submitted readings and animated by their in-house talent. Australian, southern, radio, grade school, and other cadences dovetail in a whirl of iambic tetrameter as watercolors bring the poem’s vivid imagery to life: parched tongues wag, ready for rain; slimy sea creatures rise from green depths; a boat spins in the vortex of a dream.
Of course, the reading of readings will be Fiona Shaw’s. The Tony Award nominee, who learned all 626 lines of the poem while jogging, won a Drama Desk Award in 1997 for her performance of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Which should tell you that she, more than anyone, is qualified to man Coleridge’s sails.