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.

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

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