1. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Poetry out loud

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sidewinder, Mar 30, 2011.

    How is poetry different for you when you read it out loud as opposed to seeing it on the page? How do you hear a poem differently based on how it looks, or where the line breaks are? Do you ever go to poetry open mics or readings, and do you enjoy this experience more or less than spending time reading poetry from a book by yourself?

    Some questions I've been thinking about, and would love to hear some thoughts on.
     
  2. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I've never been to a poetry reading actually, but as far as reading it myself I depend heavily on punctuation and line breaks to tell me how it's meant to be. So much about poetry depends on the stops. Depends on where you breathe. If it's wrong, then the impact is all messed up. Sometimes I read it out loud to try to find where the breaks should be if they're not there for me, but usually I can do it all in my head.

    I think I answered your question. If I didn't, forgive me,. I'm a little out of it today :(
     
  3. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find that especially with poetry, the difference between actually reading out loud as opposed to internal vocalization is enormous. I constantly read poetry out loud.

    I used to go to open mics. I've been considering taking some of my stuff out to read and see how it changes things. I think there's something about having an audience there, too.
     
  4. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel that reading poetry is more intimate and personal, and I'm more connected to the writing. Whereas with poetry being read aloud (at poetry open mics, performance poetry etc.) I feel that it is more like a dramatic monologue or a song. Both are good, just different experiences.
     
  5. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah -- this is why I asked the question. It's like poems have two sides to them. That intimate, personal side where you can spend time looking at the details and discovering new things, and that open, inflected side, where you get to hear the poet's voice and new shades of meaning come from that.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reading a poem out loud is a very different experience to having it read to you. Like Eunoia says it becomes more like a monologue or dramatic piece, the pauses and the beat, the rhythm and flow take on a greater importance at least for me than when I am reading it to myself. It can be almost like becoming the poem making it a part of who you are. It is even better when you know the words rather than just 'read' it.

    I love it when it is the poet themselves reading it out loud I often find a poem somehow makes more sense when it is read the way it was intended - the writer's passion and pauses injected into it.

    Reading quietly is different for me that is less about the poem and more about something I need at the time - strength, peace, joy, fun etc.
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Studies (yes, people get lucky enough to be able to study this kind of thing) have found that poetry, even when read to oneself, is still actually primarily a hearing based experience. As in, instead of the kind of reading where you're seeing the words and taking in the meaning, poetry (good poetry, perhaps) actaully triggers the speaking/hearing portions of the brain and (if done right) you're not actaully reading the poetry so much as speaking it silently to yourself. Of course, having it actually read, or reading it to yourself, is more effective because it cuts out the middle man, so to speak, and removes that extra filter and compensation, and becomes purely spoken and heard.

    I suppose it's why sound and rhythm is so important in poetry, as the format and natural reader-expectations are actually hearing your poem, even when read to yourself.

    I enjoy poetry readings, and fiction readings, and have even found good fiction often has similar spoken-word qualities. Or at least, good readers of fiction manage to incorporate more of this by adding in pauses and getting into a rythym.

    The worst is poetry or fiction that is simply read like a textbook, and that's when you painfully notice the difference between the two, and why in poetry workshops people will often say a line 'sounds flat' as it sort of just clunks out as information only, with no other elements.
     
  8. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Elgaisma -- agreed about hearing the poet read his or her own work. Sometimes it's only when you read the poet read it out loud that you actually start to connect with the work. One popular example I can think of is Dylan Thomas.

    @popsicledeath -- Wow, that makes a lot of sense. Do you have any links to said studies? I'd be interested. Cutting out the middle man is a good way to think of it.

    What about poems with strange page layout, where the visual component is integral to the poem? I have a few like this and I'm wondering how to treat them if I bring them to open mics.
     
  9. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I don't think I ever had trouble connecting with Dylan Thomas, but it is lovely to hear him read it.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have never written or even read poetry, I just recently started getting interested in it, at least when it comes to the reading part. :) As a novice I find it easier to read AND understand poetry which is written in certain ways, I dont know the terms in english, but with some kind of returning rhime, preferably with a rythm that facilitates reading, such as sentences (if you can speak about 'sentences' in poetry) which are at least around the same length and so on. But maybe i just don't have the sensibility for poetry... I just find some are easier to read and understand than others, whatever the reason might be.
     
  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think with a lot of contemporary poetry, especially more concrete poetry, reading it out loud is pretty unimportant. A lot of this poetry, particularly free verse, tends to move close to prose when read aloud, so reading it out is not really any different than reading a novel or story out loud. Yeah, there's probably gonna be some interesting sound devices, some cool rhythms, but with contemporary poetry the emphasis is almost always conceptual.

    Go back a century or two where blank verse is the dominant mode of poetry and you can see a clear need to read the poem aloud, because the aural structure is so intrinsically linked to the content of the poem (take the Italian sonnet, for instance, where change in mood or subject matter is first marked by a change in rhyme scheme), whereas now poetry is written to be read on a page, and structure is physical, rather than rhythmic or oral.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that depends on who's doing the reading... when i read my own poetry aloud, it's no different really, from reading it to myself, other than hearing it, of course... i will sometimes read a portion aloud when i'm crafting a poem, to make sure i've gotten it 'right'...

    if someone else is reading a poem, how it affects me depends on how well it's read and how well it was written...

    they're really the same thing, so i don't understand your question... besides, if hearing it, how can know what it looks like?...

    never have, never would...
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there is a difference between 'reading' a poem and 'learning' a poem. I have a variety of awards in Spoken Poetry and won some competitions.

    When you learn the words each one takes on an importance, deciding the intonation, body language etc apprpropriate to each one even modern poetry with its prose like format has resonance. You can do exactly the same with prose or a play. It becomes more of a monologue. The feeling of the poem is expressed with the whole body and involves physical interaction with the words. Along the lines of what Forkfoot is doing with his works. The poem becomes more of a meditation and uses the physical memory as well as the intellectual one.
     
  14. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Like Christmas poems shaped like a Christmas tree? lol

    Umm, I dunno about that kind of thing, but for most poetry I find the punctuation is often there to remind me how it should be read. Of course, I try to use punctuation that will clue a reader into how it should be read, as well.

    So, for example, I have a poem that has one stanza that sort of diverts off on a tangent. The entire stanza is indented, and punctuation is scares, because when I read it I want to remember it's a separated little tangent that I want to read in a rushed, breathless sort of manner.

    It's hard to find punctuation that always gets the reader to do what you want, which is another reason performed poetry is often so much better than simply reading it (kind of like with plays).

    I have another poem that on the page is odd formatting, with all lines indented except for the first line of each stanza, that are also bolded and lack punctuation. This is because the poem isn't meant to be read, or even performed, so much as experienced in the form of a brochure, where each stanza is cut out and tucked into a pocket in a way only the first lines are showing, read as their own poem, and then you pull out each insert for the mini-poems, and it all ties into the subject of the brochure.

    So, yeah, no really good answers. I'm personally of the mind that a lot of poetry should come with stage direction, as it's much closer to a play than fiction in many cases. And I don't think it would 'ruin' the poem, as they're meant to be experienced, not just read once. So learning how to read and perform a poem is part of the point, perhaps, and some directions would be helpful and to me even fun.
     
  15. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    You make some good points, especially about the need to read aloud older poems with aural structures. I also take your point about contemporary types of poetry like concrete poetry. I'm gonna disagree with what you're saying about free verse reading like prose. While that may be the case sometimes, it usually isn't. I find that in a lot of the contemporary free verse that I like, sound is a very important element, and reading it aloud makes a huge difference. The best example I can think of is Jim Carroll.
     
  16. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess I'm wondering how people interpret visual cues in a poem when translating it into a performance. Is there musicality embedded in the structure beyond syntax and punctuation? For example, how does an enjambed line read differently than one that isn't? I think it does read differently but I have trouble articulating just how.
     
  17. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ Elgaisma and popsicledeath -- Some more great points there. Popsicledeath -- that brochure poem sounds like an awesome idea. What's it about?
     
  18. barnz
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    I think poetry readings are so bizaare, just the fact that the delivery is completely opposite to the original intent (usually). Hearing a poem is so different than reading a poem, it just strikes me as strange.

    My inner voice tends to read things diffently than the author, so it's interesting to see how they see their work instead of how I see it.

    But at readings, I tend to pick up on more of the sonic aspect of poetry more than I would reading it, so they're definitely worth checking out!
     
  19. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I consider it more like covering a song. Inevitably you're going to add your own perspective when you read a poem, and the author of the poem's job is to give enough good material that it has legs to become different things to different people.

    I think of enjambment as creating a moment of suspense. A good example is the meme I saw the other day:

    [​IMG]
     
  20. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Bukowski. Never got it finished, only a prototype build, but the idea was to have a full-on glossy brochure paper with the inserts, and the front would be an image of LA at it's best, but each insert the part hidden would be an image that transfers to something less-than-stellar like a drunk hobo or busted typewriter because the initial poem is a bit upbeat, but the sub-poems are more gritty.

    I dunno, it all sounds pretentious when I have to write it out. Mostly I just love Bukowski so it's a poem written for him.
     
  21. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Awesome. Love that poster. That's a really good way of thinking about it -- actually helps me a lot.

    And yeah I love Bukowski too. Who doesn't? Haha.
     
  22. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Just so you know, not ignoring you. I have file-boxes full of handouts and printouts that I saved thinking I'll use them at some point in the future, but only got as far as staring at it, not wanting to dig for stuff.

    One source that starts to touch on this subject is the Western Wind: an Introduction to Poetry. It's a pretty good book overall (one of the only ones that pretty much any poet or poetry professor has suggested I actually keep and use), and chapter 7 is on sounds, and their effect in poetry, which comes from how they're 'heard' and not just 'read.'

    It's only an introduction to poetry (despite being fairly comprehensive), and doesn't really get deep into the linguistics side of things with how sound can be processed and triggered even while reading (a learned behavior, I'm sure, not like poetry is magically heard, but that we're trained to consider it as suck, so read it in that way, they've found). Western Wind gives a decent introduction to how powerful our ability to hear and process sound is, and poets can not only use that ability, but use sounds to affect mood and tone.

    A funny demonstration of the differences in how a poem is read can often be seen in 'found' poetry. Give someone a shopping list, and they'll read for information in a standard way, not 'speaking' the words to themselves. But give that shopping list to a group of poetry students, and even if they aren't allowed to read it out loud, the discussion will inevitably turn to discuss more than just the information present, of course, including how it sounded despite no sound being produced. It's a funny phenomenon, more so when it's literally just a shopping list people are figuring out as a poem.
     
  23. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks -- I'll probably have a look for that book. I think I've heard of it, actually.

    Haha -- funny point about found poetry. I've "written" a few found poems. They can be a lot of fun. It begs the question -- do "poetry students" read poetry in a different way from normal poetry readers?
     
  24. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Well, I'd argue that anyone who reads poetry is by definition not very normal! :p

    It's a funny and interesting situation, though, I agree. On the one hand, anything can be poetic. On the other hand, anything can be MADE poetic if one tries hard enough to justify it. :D

    I swear, my life is a 'found' poem. I write a poem, post it somewhere, show friends, turn it in for a class, and everyone kinda just shrugs or cringes... but then I post some Facebook status and people rave about how poetic my 'prose' poetry is, when it was just a silly Facebook status! It's like, to be poetic at all, I have to trick myself into it.
     
  25. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sort of. I agree that it depends entirely on the type of poetry. With concrete poetry reading it out can be pretty much impossible. I've been to loads of poetry readings and poetry slams (I much prefer the readings) and with performance poetry it's all about the reading. With much other poetry the written and spoken forms are complementary, completely different experiences.
     

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