Why poetry readings? We gleaned some answers from poets we interviewed for our, 10 Questions Interview Series .
“After a year of touring, I actually started to feel more confident reading my poems to an audience. With confidence, I believe my “reading” performance has been enhanced. I have come to the conclusion that there are poems that are “page” poems and “audience” poems. To elaborate, “page” poems are more complicated and/or heady poems and are meant for a reader to read and re-read slowly, calmly, and in the confines of solitude. “Audience” poems are those poems that are more musical and/or narrative in nature, which make it easier for the listener to follow, as you read with rhythm, feeling, proper breathing, and annunciation. By reading and re-reading poems aloud, you learn how to accent the poem where you want the listener to really hear and feel what you are reading. “– Diane Sahms-Guarnieri – Philadelphia, Pa.
“Largely that they enable you to finish the act of communication. If you write because you have things to say, that’s essential. Otherwise, you’re just talking to yourself. As far as getting reactions and feedback go – that really isn’t the reason you do it. And you have to be happy with it by your own standards regardless of whatever reaction it gets, or doesn’t get. You don’t do it for the reaction, but you do create the work, most of the time, in order to be able to share it. Then it’s out of your hands.”- Jack Veasey, Hummelstown, Pa.
“I perform because I have to! The poetry keeps me alive. It demands to be written and it demands to be heard…I’m just the vehicle. I’ve always said, if I couldn’t be a poet, I would probably be a preacher. I don’t know. I see the world this way…as poetry, and songs and stories. My first language is poetry. I write because if I didn’t I don’t know if I would be able to breathe. And I guess I perform for the same reason I still pray…everybody has got to have something to believe in!”- Kimmika Williams Witherspoon, Philadelphia
“I’m glad to speak the poems and hear how they sound in a larger auditory space rather than mumbled in front of the computer screen, but I’m always nervous. Some of my poems have visual quirks that can’t be relayed.” – Jane Lewty, Amsterdam, Netherlands
“Reading aloud to an audience is a public event, a gift shared with more than one person in linear time. I discovered by reading my own stuff aloud, especially while I practiced reading aloud to myself, I caught the glitches in the lines, the skips in the meter, the loss of the music I thought was there. Thus, by reading aloud, or preparing to read aloud, I was better able to edit my work.” – Stephen Page- Buenos Aires, Argentina
“In fact I love doing live readings. It gives you an opportunity to connect with the pulse of your readers. Gives you instant feedback about your work and the joy of seeing your words settle in people’s hearts. The experience is quite matchless! I’ve had youngsters approach me with endearing trepidation after my readings asking if they could keep in touch with me…I’ve had older, established poets come forth and comment on what they see as strengths in my poetry. These are all the delightful fall outs of live readings! Also, when you read live, you portray not just your work but the entire ethos to which you belong. The way you dress, the way you carry yourself and the way you interact with fellow poets also helps to convey your sensibilities as a poet. It’s a wholesome experience that goes beyond the scope of mere words”. – Vinita Agrawl, Mumbai India
“I travel constantly. As far as how important it is, that really depends on why you’re out there. Do you want to sell books? Are you attempting to build lifelong friendships? Unless you have really bad social anxiety, I think everyone should try to get out there. I myself need the book sales to eat more often than not, but the friendships that I’ve made outweigh $10 here, $20 there or some silly idea of fame, when 99 percent of people could care less about poetry anyway.” – John Dorsey, Cleveland, Ohio
“Let’s be honest: being a poet can be a lonely profession. The creating, crafting, and revising of poems demand concentration, time, energy, and discipline. For me, it is very important to “get out into the world” and share my work with audiences on a regular basis. Some poets don’t like to give readings and/or are not very good at public presentations. I’ve heard some famous poets give awkward, poor readings and some relatively unknown poets give wonderful readings. The bottom line is that a poem should be strong on the page and in the voice. After all, poetry started as a purely oral tradition long before the invention of paper, the letterpress, or the laptop.” Linda Nemec Foster, Michigan
“I’m usually able to make a connection. I remember reciting a piece on the top deck of a boat on the way from Hong Kong to Lama Island. Two people were listening, one from Australia and one from England. We were just lying there in the warm air. I was interrupted by our cruise host, but after the host left, the Englishwoman said to me, “Do the rest of it. I want to hear how it ends.” – Thaddeus Rutkowski, New York
“I have been writing since I was a young girl. Reading my work aloud, however, is something I have only done in the last eight to ten years. At first, I was very reluctant to stand up in front of an audience and read. I prefer the quiet, solitary process of writing. But, at some point, I realized that my poems needed to be heard. I had something to say and, even if it only reached one person, I needed to say it.” –Kristina Moriconi- Montgomery County, Pa.
“I enjoy reading in states outside of my home state, New York. Performance is vital. To paraphrase the great Harry Chapin: “You must seduce the audience over and over.” It is important to keep the crowds’ interest. A poet can connect with his or her audience in many ways. It is up to the novice and/or younger poet to go to readings and study the poet onstage. Take notes if need be.” Robet Milby, Hudson Valley New York