Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience

“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.

Author: Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

4 thoughts on ““Stop using ‘Poet Voice'”

  1. Good article. At first I was afraid he’d be too categorical. Most poems demand a different voice than one would give to the pre-poem chatter, and he acknowledges and celebrates that. But there is a tendency out there, I think, to fall into a uniform, hushed & holy rendering — poetry as unapproachable modern scripture or something.

  2. Agree. (And separately, I also wish there was no such thing as pre-poem chatter, frankly…)

    • Well, yes, to me it’s like, “There’s really nothing to be afraid of . . . we’ll be doing this group trance together . . .”

      Or maybe it points a poetry reading being an unsatisfactory halfway house between poetry in a living room among a few friends and a theater. Not that poetry readings are bad, but they sometimes make me wonder if poetry in a living room, a bar, or a theater would be a better place (experience). Of course, poetry happens in those places, but they don’t always serve to promote or publicly celebrate the poet, which are important things to do . . . we don’t live in Joyce’s Dublin, after all . . .

  3. I am glad someone wrote this essay. Poetry voice has been destroying my enjoyment of spoken poetry for a long time.

    Poetry slams were a good antidote because they demand a sense of theater.

    Also, maybe just reading poems to your friends, or to your spouse or something. It forces you into a different frame of speech.

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