100 words on how NOT to read a poem on stage.

New poets and old do it. They find a vocal rhythm  and they stick to it whatever the cost. The voice becomes devoid of purpose other than to stay in the tonal rise and fall and rise and fall and rise (pause a bit here) and fall. It makes the “performed” poem as predictable as rainbows in Manchester but not as stimulating.      At some imperceptible moment what actually happens is the  rhythm of the vocal hypnotizes the poet more than the audience. S/He has the sense of doing something real.

14333078_323865641299495_6735825957260668825_nAuthenticity in the performed poem is in the voice – high low mumbled screamed inhibited or expressive –  and the voice is shaped by the words.  I remind myself to read the poem as if I had just written it.  This allows me to feel the text.  The space between feeling the text and speaking the text is vast.  It needn’t be.   It is the role of the poet on stage to close the gap to capture the feeling they had when they wrote the poem.  A performed poem needn’t be outwardly expressive but it must be internally explosive. Believe me. However  quiet the poet is on stage, however inhibited they may be, if they feel their poem the audience will too.   Move and be moved.

13 thoughts on “100 words on how NOT to read a poem on stage.

  1. I just saw the movie Neruda. Would love to hear your comments. He always stirred me deeply when I read him and I had no idea how to explain why or how. It was such a pleasure to watch the actors and actresses in this movie because they seemed to me able to convey a little of what you talk about above.

    It feels to me like poetry is like music, I can’t grasp it and yet I do. You are working hard it seems..happy for you. I am exploring ways to truly stay positive in an increasingly splintered and darkening world…Just now massive amounts of rain after six years of horrible drought feels like a wonderful gift…

    • It seems timely – This blog. We need to think about how we speak as much as what we say. We’ve all been caught napping. Brexit. Trump. They speak. We need to regroup. Like Neruda. Love and revolution. I can’t wait to see that film. X

      • Yes it’s very difficult to know how to have any impact. It is encouraging to see how many people are vocally engaged in responding to Trump but I am listening also to an admonition from an Episcopal priest who valiantly speaks against Trump while still being tolerant and engaging with his supporters. Extremely challenging to engage, so much easier to “sound off.”

        You have your platform to speak from and reach a certain audience. It looks like you have a lot more power to engage, which is wonderful but even you have a segment following you that probably basically values your perspective. This ability to completely discount each other when we represent opposite sides seems the biggest challenge.

        I recently spoke to a young couple who voted for Trump and found myself agreeing that liberals do act silly in our political correctness while not hearing their concerns. I joked about the hairdresser in New England who needed to know my astrological sign before she could cut my hair, and then later plugged in some real numbers about health care issues which he listened to politely.

        Still felt like I had compromised somehow. So back to Neruda. In the end it has to be love that makes you fearless and that whole process as we engage with everyone around us seems clumsy and slow in the face of the current verbal brutality.
        Oh enough of my yammering. I am going to cook dinner. I wish you warm sunny days!

  2. the energy and enthusiasm in your voice aways fills me with delightthe words cascade,creatingpure pleasure.x

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