This week’s poem, Leonore Hildebrandt’s “The Voice Lesson,” is a celebration of learning and a powerful teacher. I love the bright chaos of the poem’s scene, both in the room and inside the speaker’s novice lungs and throat. I also love the brilliantly eccentric image and voice of this teacher, who seems to know so well not just how we sing, but why.

Hildebrandt is the author of the poetry collections “Where You Happen to Be,” “The Work at Hand” and “The Next Unknown.” Her poems and translations have appeared in the Cimarron Review, Harpur Palate and Poetry Daily, among other journals. A native of Germany, Hildebrandt lives “off the grid” in Harrington and spends the winter in Silver City, New Mexico. She serves on the editorial board of the Beloit Poetry Journal. 


The Voice Lesson 

By Leonore Hildebrandt


When I enter the house, a small dog charges and yips.

She cries, “Bongo, Bongo,” adding to the tumult.


My teacher’s assertion is matched by her dress,

which flows from the Rubenesque breasts in charming disarray.


Where I come from, we take shallow breaths

not to disturb the ways of propriety.


As a result, habit is strung tight around my chest.

Massive air columns weigh on my throat.


She cuts through all of that: “Practice

to focus the sound—horizontal, even.”


Vocal folds vibrate neither high nor low, she says.

Air waves swell and subside driven by clear thought.


Her jewelry sparkles. Her chest widens

and muscles. “Imagine a life vest.


Imagine the vent pipe of a dryer.” My teacher

loves me enough to believe it can be done.


Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “The Voice Lesson,” copyright © 2020 by Leonore Hildebrandt, was originally published in Sky Island. It appears by permission of the author.

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