At Voice Alpha, they’re concerned with the art of reading poetry aloud for an audience (h/t Writing Without Paper). A little while back the discussion centered around the choice between reading or reciting one’s poetry. I offered the following thought about my own choice.
I don’t write my poetry to be performed, but to be read. It is, for me, a purely textual artifact, not a performance. I write it that way. There is expressiveness, of course, but not performance. Spoken word poetry often has declamatory, rhythmic, and rhyme features that are meant for performance. My poetry purposely lacks those features in the same manner on purpose, because I think outside of performance they are not desirable.
Another commenter provided a link to this compelling reading by Carolyn Forche of her prose poem “The Colonel.” On the subject of presentation, notice how Forche begins by reading, glancing down at the page periodically. Soon enough, as the dramatic moment the poem relates becomes more clearly compelling itself, Forche, until very near the end, ceases to read, as if taken over by memory of the experience, and begins not to read or recite the poem, but relate it, as the prosaic dramtic account it is in poetic nature. Even some minor rhetorical disjunctions that seem to exist on the page disappear in the completely dramatic narrative performance. See how Forche uses her hand, too, to enforce the sense of narrative relation.
- Eating Poetry (XXXI) – Neruda’s Memoirs (sadredearth.com)
- Eating Poetry (XXX) – In Memory of W. B. Yeats (sadredearth.com)
- Eating Poetry (XXIX) – “Next, Please” (sadredearth.com)
- Eating Poetry (XXVII) – “My Ship Isn’t Pretty” (sadredearth.com)
- How We Lived on It (28) – “Time Was More Important Than Money” (sadredearth.com)
- Eating Poetry (XXVI) – “A Contribution to Statistics” (sadredearth.com)