Reading poetry aloud creates a different experience than reading it on the page.
The poet should read the poem slowly to emphasize each word and to give it space and time, so the listeners can take in the sounds and meanings.
Reading a poem too quickly causes those nuances to be lost, as well as what the poem says. It just becomes a string of words.
That’s what I learned to prepare for my participation in a public poetry reading.
I read three of my poems about summer a few days after the solstice during Poetry at the Museum: Summer Solstice Poetry, A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Sunday, June 26, at the Loveland Museum/Gallery. The two-hour event featured poetry, music and storytelling, all around the theme of summer.
Three local poets organize seasonal readings around the change of the seasons for summer, fall, winter and spring. They invited half a dozen poets and artists to present their works about summer and Shakespeare’s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.:
I scoured my poetry for seasonal poems, finding only two, and wrote a new one to get to my three. Though I love summer, I realized I had few poems about summer, but had many about spring and fall and even a few about the starkness of winter.
When I read the poems, I wasn’t shaking and nervous, but felt comfortable. I’d practiced at the mike and read my poems several times out loud, getting to the point of memorizing a few lines.
Here are a few more tips for reading poetry in front of audience:
- Put the poems in an extra large font.
- Move your finger along the page as you read.
- Look up at individual members of the audience.
- Don’t overdramatize or try to be cute.
- Emphasize the last one to two lines.
And lastly, practice because that’s what provides that comfort factor. It’s doing what you did before, but with a few more people in the room.