Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience

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’twas the night before Christmas – Jim Meskimen

No mention of Christmas at Voice Alpha yet this year – getting these Jim Meskimen voice gymnastics in under the wire. Merry Christmas!

More on Jim Meskimen at Voice Alpha.



OK, this is just embarrassing. If you can’t memorize your own poem, or the Guardian won’t spring for a teleprompter, how about just don’t participate..?

Other Close-up series posts on Voice Alpha.


Watch & listen to this!! – Robin Robertson

Wow, listen to this freaky amazing poem and watch how tremendously Scottish poet Robin Robertson delivers it! I’m bowled over by the performance. It’s all terrific, but for whatever reason, I’m loving that slow eye-closing thing that he does periodically most of all. (From the Guardian’s Close-up poetry series.)

In other Close-up poetry news, a nice reading from Scottish poet Liz Lochhead here. Relaxed yet focused delivery and she makes us feel the menace and tension. As mother of two boys, had to laugh in emotional recognition – I bet I’ll be the same when my boys are old enough!

Other Close-up series posts on Voice Alpha


memorization ‘creates a new channel of intelligence’

Poetry Foundation’s Curtis Fox interviews Dan Beachy-Quick on memorization:

12 min 19 secs

DBQ: I think memorizing a poem in a strange sort of way gives that poem access to you more than you are giving yourself access to it … putting the poem in oneself, in one’s memory and mind … leaves the poem in me, it creates a new channel of intelligence in me that isn’t mine at all .. and that feels extraordinarily valuable to me as a poet.

Very interesting. Perhaps akin to one of my favorite themes: the impact of reading a poem aloud for an audience – voice is an organ of investigation that brings you information not otherwise available to you. Voice and memorization = interiorization in related ways.

Related Voice Alpha posts:
To read or recite?” by Dave Bonta
To read or recite? Dramatic vs Epic” by Dick Jones.

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what can you learn from watching/listening to others read their work aloud?

Interesting read from a fiction writer here. (via Dave Bonta)

Attending reading series with the devotion of a zealot has not only enabled me to construct the supportive network my writing life so lacked, it has also—and I never saw this coming—improved my work. Whether a writer steps behind a microphone to brave a cheapo sound system and a sea of empty chairs, or alights before a standing-room-only crowd; something important happens when a writer shares his work out loud. There are lessons to be learned from attending reading series. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

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‘Close-up poetry’

A nice idea from the Guardian: “A series of readings, in which poets choose a favourite poem from their own work, and recite it to camera.”

There are two readings up so far. I enjoyed the understated comfortable – in both voice and visage – reading in this one by Yorkshire (love that accent..) poet Simon Armitage.

Not so much this one by Jo Shapcott – her voice and face are both trying too hard for my taste.

Look forward to seeing who goes up next – the site has an RSS feed so you can add it to your reader and get them as they are posted.


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