Don't have much time to do an extended or rounded out post, so quickly, just a few thoughts: just returned from the reading this evening and have to say I am disappointed. For one thing, Meena had a lot of mannerisms which were distracting and, I thought, took away from the impact of the poems. She read mainly from Quickly Changing River and Raw Silk. The latter has a poem sequence called (not sure I have the exact title right, since I wasn't making notes) 'Letters to Gandhi', which were written post-Godhra. Only during these poems did her voice become more conversational and her rhythms more varied.
The rest of the time, I noticed, her speaking voice was markedly different from her reading voice - which is fine; many poets have that distinction, a shift from a more informal register to a formal reciting voice. But: her reading voice came not from deep down; not even a high, back-of-the-throat kind of voice music teachers try their damndest to discourage; her voice appeared to be produced from somewhere between her teeth and her lips, a method of reading that distorted the words strangely. It didn't help that her reading style is a drawl, a way of elongating some syllables in a way that reminded me most embarrassingly of my own AIR reading from last year (or was it the year before?)
At the end of the reading, I asked her how she prepared for a performance, if she ever heard herself read. I wanted to know, because until I heard my own recording, I had no idea how much I drawled and ruined the poems by stretching them out like that. I don't do it anymore. I also try to read each poem aloud in a number of different way, with different emphases, to see what works better or what about the poem changes with different reading styles.
I'm not sure she understood my question, really - she said she used to read her poems aloud to herself, but now she reads them out in her head. It would account for the sameness of the reading.
So I have to say I prefer her poems on the page than listening to them read aloud. But it was interesting all the same.