Friday, July 2, 2010

Tom O'Bedlam Reads Poetry

For about two years, a person with the alias Tom O'Bedlam has been reading poetry, animating the readings with images--often of the text itself--and uploading the audio/video to Youtube. His channel has now attracted over 1,600,000 views, which Youtube calls uploads. I should add that these are not "Tom's" poems but poems more or less from the canon, loosely defined. I immediately found two old favorites, "The Groundhog" and "The Fly"--for example.

I'm no expert on the overlapping micro-demographics of Blogger and Youtube, but if you found your way to this blog, you are already probably aware of Tom O'Bedlam. If by chance you're not, however, simply visit the Youtube Channel called Spoken Verse [with a space] and enjoy accessible, well produced readings of the poems, with great attention to the words themselves, but nothing overly dramatic or stagy.

You'll find old favorites and lots of surprises. And you'll find a link to a farcical story about Youtube's attempting to kick Tom off the premises, simply because he used a photo of a woman with one breast exposed in connection with a poem he read by Michael Ondaatje. Film critic Roger Ebert was drawn into the silliness, and Tom's channel was returned to good standing. I'll provide a link here to the tale as told by Ebert:

Ebert and O'Bedlam

Ebert intimates that we should be able to detect to whom the British voice belongs (an actor), so there's a bit of added "intrigue."

But Tom O'Bedlam's project is just one of those simple but splendid things made possible by mass media, which Tom is using artfully to transmit, celebrate, and, arguably, revive a non-mass-medium, poetry.

Here is Tom's own self-effacing description (from his Channel) of how he does what he does:

"I record everything sitting at my desk in my small office. The microphone I use (these days) is a Rode Podcaster plugged into a USB port. The software is either WavePad or Audacity - both free downloads. Anybody could do it."

So please do pay Tom's channel a visit, start by finding a favorite poem, and take it from there. You won't be sorry, as the advertisements like to say.


huyked said...

Oh yes, I enjoy, and am subscribed to Spoken Verse. I love his voice.

Steven Terry Parker said...

I hoped to find a little more out about Mr.O'Bedlam, but should perhaps relish the fact he remains a character of mystery and intrigue.

My English ears detect that O'Bedlam is not from the British isles, but is rather an Australian (!) who has acquired/cultivated a English-esque accent. I should point out that dialects vary dramatically in the UK, and the one Tom has adopted should be classed as recieved pronunciation. Certain actors, one of whom being Leo McKern speak RP despite their antepodian roots.

Hans Ostrom said...

Interesting, Mr. Parker. I had assumed Mr. O'Bedlam was British, but of course most Americans, including me, find it difficult to sort out the English accents. Many thanks.

Joan Taber said...

I only recently discovered Tom O'Bedlam's Youtube readings. His voice is mellow, rich, warm; his recitations neither drown out nor dismiss the poems. I don't care who he really is or where his accent is from—he is simply the best of readers.

Jonathan said...

Tom's readings are great; hes inspired and motivated me to read a few works, and even to write some poetry of my own. His channel is a great place to introduce yourself to various poets and authors, or to hear old favorites read professionally.

Its a shame that Tom's videos get drowned out by the millionth video of a cat being fed icecream. Many of the talented people on YouTube get maybe 10-500 hits a video, while utter garbage is seen by millions of people. Maybe this isn't the write way to look at it, but I've become frustrated with the public standard of quality.

w84gdo said...

Just happened upon Tom O’Belam’s recitation of “all in green went my love riding” by We Cummings. What a splendid Monday morning find. Googled him, and was taken down the rabbit hole ... the early mythology te the anonymous poems, the Ebert kerfluffle, this little posting stream of comments.

Lucky moi!

w84gdo said...

Happened upon Tom’s recitation of we cumming’s “all in green”. What a delightful find for a drear Monday morning. Then did a bit of googling to try and suss out a bit more info re Tom. AND THEN it was off down the rabbit hole: the anonymous 17th century poems, the Ebert/YouTube kerfluffle, this ditty of a comment thread. Thanks mucho!

Sally Shears said...

Love his reading of Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth - absolutely mesmerising.