Poetry Readings

I’m not normally big on them myself.

It’s not that I don’t like them.  It’s that I don’t do them.  I used to, back when I was a young whippersnapper fresh out of university.  But then things happened and I stopped writing poetry, much less reading it aloud.  In the intervening years, more stuff happened, and the spoken word became central in the poetry scenes around the country.  When I found my poetic voice again, I decided (after reading once at a spoken word gathering) that my work was targeted differently, and didn’t seek out readings.

Fast forward to June 2007.

An old friend approached me a couple of months ago with the proposal to put together a poetry series for the National Art Gallery.  She invited me to take an evening and present my work.  I said yes.  Now that evening is two weeks away and I’m wondering what to read, how to present, and so on.

If anybody has any insight in this, I’d be grateful for all ideas.  Brainstorming never hurt anyone.

It has, however, made some people and things go BOOM.

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6 thoughts on “Poetry Readings

  1. At the near-certain risk of telling you what you already know!

    Read engagingly, look at the audience when you can, but don’t dramatise the poems like a comedy actor tring to do Shakespeare.

    Read clearly and slowly. But don’t read so slowly that the poems drag and people start opening packets of crisps.

    Talking between poems is a good idea, because poem after poem can be hard going. for an audience It’s best to think out a few ideas. Rambling endlessly is the worst thing.

    A variety of material – light/heavy, long/short, accessible/strange, humour/sadness – tends to help. As do a few poems you think people might connect with strongly.

    My experience is that people who bother to go and see a poetry reading generally want to like the poetry. So I guess you’ll be fine. Your poetry is good and I’m sure people will enjoy it.

  2. Lily. You can’t lose with her. Make her the backbone and work a few other pieces around her. How long are you going to be reading? Time length determines a lot just in itself.

  3. Thanks, guys!

    Rob, invaluable advice. I shall try to follow it.

    Hedge and Julie, I have printed out the whole of Lily — 26 poems now, can you imagine? — and am thinking about how to deliver them, and what I’m going to say.

    I’ll let you all know what happens. And between now and then I’m sure I’ll have more questions.

    Just know this: the last time I prepared to read Lily poems, my husband the theatre director told me I sounded as though I was going to die.

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