Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience

Letter to a Friend Who is about to Read in front of an Audience


Hi P_______!

Congratulations on your upcoming reading! How exciting.

I think if you can do some stand-up about a weird blind date, then I think you’d certainly have no problem with reading poems. It’ll be a cinch! But just in case you need some more ideas, I’d suggest the following:

• do some vocal warm-ups beforehand. Deep breathing, tongue-twisters… anything that’ll help release excess energy, which seems to accumulate right before a reading.

read your poems once or twice so that you’re familiar with it.

• however, I also like to have my poems be not too familiar. It’s nice if you can surprise yourself with fresh insights into your own work.

• if you haven’t used a microphone before or are not too confident, a couple of good tips is to adjust the mic so that you’re talking across it and not into it. Also, if you’re not first to the microphone, it’s a good idea to listen out for ‘popping’ on the plosives: Ps and Ts, etc. You might need to draw back a bit and increase your volume to compensate.

• volume does not come from your throat but from the diaphragm. Think of the area of your stomach and lungs as the sound-chamber and the volume will be resonant, and not merely loud.

relax, take your time, slow down. Give people time to absorb the words. Even if you think you’re too slow, you’re not. There are more likely to be complaints about a speaker being too fast than about a speaker being too slow. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it!

Hope that’s enough. Take only what you need of my advice, of course. You’ll be great! Yay!



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Author: Ivy

Author of two poetry collections, Disturbance (Seren, 2013) and Mortal (Red Morning Press, 2006). http://www.ivyalvarez.com

5 thoughts on “Letter to a Friend Who is about to Read in front of an Audience

  1. Great advice, glad to read this letter!

  2. A very good point about breathing and the diaphragm. Voice control is all about breath control and that’s where it starts. Great post, Ivy!

  3. Nice to see this piece from Ivy. Slowing down is always what I need to remember.

    And have you seen Maureen Doallas’s post today on Writing Without Paper? It’s a great interview with Ami Mattison that includes a video of her reading:


  4. Thanks, Kathleen, Nic, Carolee and Hannah!

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