I believe in the power of voice. Your voice.
Since 2011 WordPlaySound has published original poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction in a monthly podcast, available free on iTunes. I founded the journal out of frustration. As a fledgling writer, I wanted to participate in Chicago’s publishing scene, but small presses and magazines passed on my submissions. The market seemed saturated with gifted, experienced writers, leaving little room for a newbie who was trying to market creative nonfiction as fiction. Moreover, all of the publications I solicited missed the mark of what I was looking for—they wanted text on a page while I was aiming to take my writing further, eager to explore the sounds of words. I either had to get creative or quit, so I chose the former.
There are already so many online options for written poetry and literature; I decided to reconcept my interests as online performance art even though I didn’t have the technological chops to pull it off—or so I thought. For months I studied approaches to podcasting and tinkered with several programs to make content available online and via iTunes. Dabbling in this emerging medium fueled my creativity, but it would have been meaningless if I didn’t yolk this project to a mission: empowering authors with voice.
When I read speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I’m inspired. But when I hear audio of his strong, unwavering voice through the muffled sounds of old microphones and amplifiers, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Chills wash over me. They’re the same words I just read—the content is unchanged—but his spoken prose moves me differently; his words absorb me. I want to hear a similar fire in authors’ voices today because I believe that writers create work not only because it has meaning on a page, but because the sound of words has meaning on its own. I want us all to hear their words as writers heard them internally.
The audio format gives artists an opportunity to participate in their own work in a nontraditional way. My aim is not to undermine the visual aesthetics of literature or the aural aesthetics of poetry, but to provide for those who discovered the power of spoken words by listening to books-on-tape as a child, sitting in the back seat of a station wagon during long drives through Ohio’s Amish Country.
Since WordPlaySound’s advent, poets and writers near and far have submitted compelling pieces. From Chicago to California, Mexico to the north coast of Ireland, authors’ work has come alive in their own accents, the voice of unscripted passion.
Many magazines publish a version of audio as an addendum to a text; WordPlaySound features only oral art. My vision for this online journal is to inspire people to shoot straight for audio. Forget the page; go for the performance.
Audio is undervalued as a medium for poetry and prose. It’s considered secondary to print, which largely diminishes the inherent (if private) performance aspect of writing. Some things are meant to be listened to, not merely read. WordPlaySound is set up to publish pieces that value performance over appearance, empowering poets and authors with an opportunity to be heard.
On Setting Up a Studio
Audio recording is a lot easier than you might think, even if you're new to the medium. Chances are, you are sitting in front of all the tools you need to get started. Laptops almost always come with built-in microphones, whereas desktops require an external mic (here are several options). The next step is software, and there's no reason to spend money on this piece of the puzzle. For PCs, I recommend Audacity or Free Audio Editor. For Macs, it's hard to beat GarageBand. There you have it! You're all set up and ready to record. And don't forget to have fun bringing your poetry and prose to life.