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Ira Glass on His Practice Catching Up with His Taste

By Harriet Staff

Ira Glass took part in this interview over at SF Gate. In it, Glass is asked about another film interview he did in which he talked about storytelling and how it’s important to have the patience to allow one’s practice to catch up with one’s taste. It’s a great video, watch it.

A bit later, however, he describes the evolution of his voice on This American Life in a bit more detail, referencing Billy Collins:

But listening to the very first This American Life (which you started some years later), any difference from how you did it then to how you do it now is very subtle. But are you able and willing to describe any ways in which you think your practice has caught up to your taste in the time you’ve done the show?

Yeah, totally. I think when we started the radio show, there was a slightly more precious sound that I was interested in that I would “perform.” The longer that I’ve been performing the show, the more I think I sound like my actual self and less mannered. It was a lot more “performance art” and more pretentious. We experimented a lot more because it wasn’t clear what the show was, and then as time went on, it became clear that what we were interested in were these reported stories with characters, scenes, emotional and funny moments. I went through something that I think a lot of people go through when they start off making work of any kind, and that is, I was making work that was like other peoples’ work. I was trying to do it the “official way,” like “This is what a reporter sounds like on public radio.”

One time I got to interview Billy Collins, the poet laureate. He’s just this incredibly funny writer, the poetry itself is just a very funny, a very distinct personality comes through. I asked, “Did you always write like this?” And he said, “No, I went through different periods, for years.” I think he said he was a beat poet at first, and he thought “Well this is what a poet sounds like.” Then finally he said, “This is who I sound like.” Talking to other reporters I haven’t found that many who went for that but the ones who say they did are the stand-up comics. They say it takes about seven years to finally sound like yourself.

Full article, with aforementioned video, here.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, August 30th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.