Shelley Widhalm

Giving a good poetry reading

In Giving a Poetry Reading, Poetry, Poetry Readings on April 19, 2015 at 5:00 am

(Photo by Steve Stoner/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Reading my poetry in front of an audience twice in one month is a lucky deal.

But before I read my poetry, I had to do some preparation work to make sure I made the best use of my mic time.

On Saturday, April 18, I participated in the Lo-Co Poetry Slam, a new open mic the third Saturday of the month at the LoCo Artisan Coffee House in downtown Loveland, Colo., where poets can slam or simply read their poetry. I read a couple of my longer poems that had the rap rhythm but weren’t actually slam poetry with the fast rhythm and words spilling out rapid fire.

I participated in a more official poetry reading Friday, April 24, as a finalist in the adult category of the Poudre River Public Library District’s “Battle of the Bards” poetry contest. I read my poem, “Dad’s Swing Sets,” about the swing sets my father built for my brother and I in the two homes we lived in as children. My poem, along with the other winning poems, will be printed in the 2015 Battle of the Bards poetry chapbook and a free library district e-book.

When I read my poems, I thought of my reading as a performance, remembering to look at the audience to make eye contact and making sure I didn’t read too fast or in a monotone.

To give a good reading, here are some other things to do:

  • Select poems that relate thematically, but pick out a few that vary in pace, tone or content.
  • Mark up the poems to indicate where to change voice or emphasize certain lines or ideas.
  • Explain the context of what’s being reading, such as the inspiration for the poem or the story it tells without giving away too much.
  • Rehearse, reading the work out loud and enunciating clearly. Practice in front of friends.
  • Time practice readings to know what to expect for the public reading.

Lastly, make sure to publicize the reading via social media, flyers and emailing friends.

  1. Reblogged this on Dean K Miller and commented:
    Great ideas/options for your next poetry reading from Shelley Widhalm.

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