Poetry reading or performance

Which do you prefer?

As a lover of poems and music, I’d really like to go to a poetry performance with full percussion. As a poet, however, I’d rather give a reading since I like to read poems aloud. I like what voice inflections can add to a poem and to the listener’s ear, including mine when I’m still revising, but I’m also a list-keeper by nature, which means I’m not apt to rely on memory.

Another poet, however, likes to fill memory cells to the max. Since he also likes to play a guitar, his hands aren’t free to hold a book of poems as he recites his poetry with accompanying chords.

Regardless of your preference, these thoughts might help your poetry reading or poetic performance:

Think about your audience, and select poems they’ll respond to and enjoy.

If you have any light humor pieces you can work into your selection, they’ll help you warm readers and relieve tension too.

Read aloud each poem you’ll include with your ear attuned for anything that seems off. Correct by revising any word that causes a glitch in pronunciation.

Keep reading each poem until you really get into it and feel “at one” with the words, thoughts, and sounds – somewhat like getting into character or letting the lines become part of yourself. That sounds odd since you wrote those lines! But sometimes we don’t hear ourselves in a conversation – or in a poem – so this exercise gives you the opportunity to know if you even agree with yourself! If not, revise accordingly or find another poem you can truly embrace and present with passion.

If you make a mistake as you practice your reading or recitation, go back to the last lines that flowed well and start again, so you can hear the poem as it’s meant to be read and heard.

When you feel comfortable with the lines, stand in front of a mirror to help yourself remember to glance up from time to time. While you’re at it, notice how your facial expressions might appear to your audience – not to make yourself self-conscious but to feel how your face feels when it’s ready to face a crowd.

If your first experience is like mine, the crowd will be there too – mulling around, talking loudly, drinking wine, and making it hard to hear for the few who come to sit and listen. You might find yourself raising your voice or playing your guitar longer and louder or replacing poems you picked with a couple of humorous pieces that can’t help but make your listeners laugh as the mullers miss the music and the fun.

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.
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