The poet Wallace Stevens‘ reclusiveness would have made him an unlikely candidate for karaoke, but death is a great leveler. One who’s shuffled off this mortal coil can no longer claim to be publicity shy or highly protective of his privacy. Nor can he object if a living author—Rob Sheffield, say—selects a song for him to hypothetically butcher.
This is how a quiet poet-accountant of Stevens’ stature finds himself holding the mic in a beyond-the grave karaoke suite, facing the scrolling lyrics of The Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” (above).
The strange pairing is part of a publicity stunt in service of Sheffield’s new book, Turn Around Bright Eyes: the Rituals of Love and Karaoke. Visit Bookish to see his ultimate karaoke tracks for four other late authors, including Oscar Wilde and the agoraphobic Emily Dickinson.
It’s all in fun, naturally, but Sheffield, the music journalist and karaoke convert, is not just having an ironic laugh at his favorite poet’s expense. (Though no doubt Stevens’ poem, “Sunday Morning,” factored heavily into the decision-making process.)
Here’s how we know Sheffield is sincere. Karaoke became his unlikely emotional rescuer following the untimely death of his first wife, and helped forge bonds with a new romantic partner. Listen to his passionate description of its transformative effects in the video below. He could be a poet describing his muse. Even die hard karaoke resistors may be moved to give it a whirl after hearing him speak.
May we suggest “Sunday Morning” for your first outing? If you’re feeling nervous, dedicate it to Wallace Stevens. There in spirit, surely.
Find Readings by Wallace Stevens in our collection of Free Audio Books