Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience

Can a good poetry reading get you laid?

12 Comments

In an interview at Nic Sebastian’s blog, Kathleen Fitzpatrick — who submits poems on behalf of her poet-husband, W.F. Lantry — mentions “the very famous poet who’d stolen his girlfriend away for the evening after a reading. Twice. With two different girls.”

She doesn’t mention whether Lantry’s new-found success as a poet, thanks to her efforts, has made him more attractive to women at poetry readings now than he used to be. But I have to think that merely getting behind a mike and doing a credible job as a reader increases one’s charisma 100-fold. I know this a bit from personal experience, though I hasten to confess that I’ve only ever gotten one solid offer, and turned it down because fundamentally I am still a shy person. But as an audience member, I can think of at least half a dozen times when female poets I hadn’t previously thought attractive were transformed into goddesses by the end of a reading. They had little in common that I can recall other than the fact that their poetry was top-notch, and they read it extremely well.

I’m not sure how exactly this works, but I’m thinking that if we can offer some concrete suggestions, it might do more to combat the epidemic of mumbling and the sing-song style than anything else we might say. Charisma is a mystery beyond the scope of one blog post, but I’m wondering if there are specific reading styles or strategies that render a poet more attractive than others. For example, is it a given that slam-style poets inspire more lust than those with quieter or more cerebral work? What role might body language play? Can a great reading induce selective blindness in regards to untrimmed nose and ear hair, bad teeth, or terribly unstylish eyewear? Is it possible that some audience members will find compulsive chin-stroking, throat-clearing, or audible sniffing at the end of every line endearing? All theories and anecdotes welcome! And we’d like to hear from members of the LGBT community, as well.

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Author: Dave Bonta

I write poems, blog, take photos, and edit a poetry video site called Moving Poems.

12 thoughts on “Can a good poetry reading get you laid?

  1. Fun post, Dave. On topic, I recommend “Rhyming Life and Death” by Amos Oz, whose novels are always poetry.

  2. Difficult to overstress the importance of a really good voice, of course, but a poet also must be at ease with the intrinsic intimacy of reading aloud. The great ones seem as they would be happiest in an armchair, on the otherwise deserted deck of a cruise-ship headed nowhere, reading to just one rapt listener. Any poet with a distancing affect cannot seduce.

  3. Laughing!

    OK, confession. This was fiction, not poetry, but I once got a call from a man who’d heard me at a bar open mic (yes, OK, it was a bar) reading my story, and he was blind and had called to say I should read for the blind, etc. But really he wanted to date me.

    He’s happily married to somebody else now, I am glad to report! (I think that’s still true.)

  4. After many a year of investigating this topic, I can report there are only four secrets. First, you need really good syntax. The more complex, the better, as long as it flows. Excellent diction, nice and crisp and smooth. None of the common stuff one hears all the time. Good enunciation, especially of vowels. And a slow voice. Everyone reads too fast.

    I think there are only two mistakes to avoid. One is telling jokes. They never work. The other is practicing. Nothing is worse than stilted delivery.

    I only know this through observation, and the testimonies of those involved. Here’s a typical transcript-

    Me: “What in the heck were you thinking?!?”
    She: “I just couldn’t resist his syntax! And his vowels! Oh, my goodness!”
    Me: “I need another drink!”

    Ouch! ;)

    Thanks,

    Bill

    • Wow, you’ve made a real study of this. Syntax, diction, enunciation, slowness. O.K.! I think I’ve got the slow part just about licked. As in 45 minutes later wondering, “Wait a second — was she making a pass at me?” But maybe that’s not the kind of slowness that’s called for….

  5. Damn! This all comes a decade or two too late for me. Nonetheless, just on the off-chance, I’m scribbling down the tips here.

  6. What Bill said, plus there’s nothing more attractive than a reader you can feel is emotionally engaged with what they are reading. All the syntax and diction and slowness in the world can’t make up for a reader who is just reading at you. Nice post, Dave!

  7. From the movie Dead Poets Society:

    John Keating: Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is – Mr. Anderson? Come on, are you a man or an amoeba?
    [pause]
    John Keating: Mr. Perry?
    Neil: To communicate.
    John Keating: No! To woo women!

    Not just women, either. Ahem!

  8. Pingback: How to Read a Poem

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