Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience


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voice as organ of investigation

“.. to say the words over and over and then to hear yourself say them [..] is to go farther into the poem than you might have imagined was possible. Suddenly, you start to see the things between the lines and letters. Sometimes, you stop in your tracks mid-read and realize you have to start over.”

[..]

“.. with each subsequent reading, I found myself feeling the poems more as the speaker rather than an outside reader. I suppose it must be a bit like this for an actor learning a character, moving from reader to this other self that exists in the lines of the poem.

I don’t know if this is how poetry reading should be done, but it makes sense to me to think of a poem as something that is said or told as if letting the audience in on some secret rather than recited or pronounced (in the sense of pronouncement). When I read to my students, this approach seems to work best for them. They actually listen.

The best thing about this is that by the end, when I sit back and listen, I feel like I’ve come to understand the poem in a way I hadn’t before. As if now, I’ve really walked that mile in the other’s shoes.”

James Brush recently joined the ranks of volunteer readers for The Poetry Storehouse and blogged about his experience here. His experience with preparing and reading poetry aloud for an audience tracks exactly with mine. The voice truly is an organ of investigation, and one that brings you information about what you are reading that is not otherwise available to you. I think it’s related to putting the poem into the body, as it were, and making it a physical, bodily experience.

Listen to James’s Storehouse readings here and see information about all Storehouse readers here.


4 Comments

“Stop using ‘Poet Voice'”

Maybe the poet is the great Louise Glück or the former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Maybe the poet is a close friend. Whoever it is, that person has just slipped into Poet Voice, ruining everybody’s evening and their own poetry because now the audience has to spend a lot of intellectual and emotional energy trying to understand the words of the poem through a thick cloud of oratorical perfume.

Full article by Rich Smith here.

Lol. Don’t disagree with what he is saying, but my pet peeve remains the end of line note. Which sometimes, but not always, comes along with other characteristics described in the article.

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