Poetry Reading

Recurring debates on important poetry topics.
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David Campbell
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Poetry Reading

Post by David Campbell » Mon May 12, 2014 10:02 am

Yet again, but this time in verse...

Poetry Reading

Do we have a proposition that it must be our ambition
to remember any poems we might choose
to present in public forums or at literary quorums
if “performing” is a word we’d like to use?

Does the mention of a “reading” mean a poet is conceding
that a lesser form of artistry’s on view?
One that’s not as entertaining just because a bloke’s refraining
from the memorising side of what we do?

It seems fair to ask these questions in the light of some suggestions
that “performance” and a “reading” aren’t the same,
as if one send spirits soaring while the other’s simply boring,
with the people left to wonder why they came.

But it doesn’t really matter if my rhyme and rhythm chatter
is theatrical, spectacular and grand,
and my voice is quite melodic as I rant in tones rhapsodic…
I can still do that while holding book in hand!

I can leap about and jiggle, give an energetic wiggle,
I can whisper, SHOUT, or go right off my nut;
I can pull a face demonic, make a gesture histrionic…
so I don’t see why “performance” doors are shut.

I will challenge any notion that my reading lacks emotion,
or is something that won’t entertain a crowd.
I’ve no problem with inviting anyone who likes reciting
to a versifying contest…books allowed!

For I’m making the submission that we give due recognition
to those poets who, for reasons of their own,
are not keen on memorising, but are happy vocalising,
and enjoy the chance to front a microphone.

© David Campbell 12/05/14

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Maureen K Clifford
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Re: Poetry Reading

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Mon May 12, 2014 11:39 am

Well said David - and totally agree with you - as one who cannot these days memorize even a bloody phone number I have often wondered why the 'reading' of poetry is frowned upon. I'd probably be prepared to give it a go at poetry do's were I able to read it - but once the word performance is mentioned I'm off like a rat up a drainpipe. Suspect there are many who would fall into a similar category :lol:
Check out The Scribbly Bark Poets blog site here -

I may not always succeed in making a difference, but I will go to my grave knowing I at least tried.

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Re: Poetry Reading

Post by Terry » Mon May 12, 2014 11:54 am

I agree David
But make the observation that if your going to read, then learn to read your poem well.

I know that you can get more that the odd hiccup when people recite,
but it seems to me that there is only a very few people who read really well.
I heard you read your winning poem at the Blackened Billy a couple of years ago,
and you did an excellent job of it. On the other hand I have heard some pretty ordinary efforts as well; me included.
Yet saying that I feel we need to do what ever is necessary to get more people participating.

Cheers Terry

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David Campbell
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Re: Poetry Reading

Post by David Campbell » Mon May 12, 2014 2:11 pm

Thanks, Maureen and Terry.

Some years ago I was in a play called "The Hollow Crown" in which the actors (four of us) read our parts, and also had the main role in a production of "The Norman Conquests" (actually three interlinked plays) which required about six hours on stage through an afternoon and evening, with every word memorised. Both were regarded equally as "performances" and evaluated as such. So I don't understand why reading is so often denigrated in the bush poetry world.

I'm actually not talking about performance comps here, Marty (although I'm delighted, as mentioned elsewhere, to see the North Pine folk offering a section for readers)...I'm simply querying the apparent assumption that reading a poem means "dumbing down" (to use your crude phrase) a performance. Yes, committing a piece to memory is a skill, and we have some poets who are brilliant exponents on the stage. We also have some who drone on and on, with so much effort put into remembering that the result is totally lifeless. Or else the poem gets completely mangled when memory fails. We need to talk up any efforts to get our verse out into the public arena and accept that there will be both good and bad in both approaches...without making unwarranted assumptions.



Re: Poetry Reading

Post by Heather » Mon May 12, 2014 3:00 pm

I think that sometimes the best way to soak up a poem is to close your eyes and listen without the distractions of theatrics; it depends on the poem of course. I especially remember listening to Jim Brown in competition at Crookwell. I didn't need to see Jim recite his poem because I was listening to the words and the WAY he recited it. It could have been read, it wouldn't have mattered.

I like to read poetry - to myself. :)

Heather :)

Neville Briggs
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Re: Poetry Reading

Post by Neville Briggs » Mon May 12, 2014 3:30 pm

Of course if the piece being presented is poor material then it remains poor material no matter how it is put out there. :roll:

Very good David, spot on. :)
" Prose is description, poetry is presence " Les Murray.


Re: Poetry Reading

Post by Heather » Mon May 12, 2014 4:37 pm

...and if it is good material it can be read (well of course Neville) or recited and it's still good..... :)

william williams

Re: Poetry Reading

Post by william williams » Mon May 12, 2014 5:03 pm

please excuse my grammar in writing and I hope you may understand what I am saying Bill Williams

Thank you both David and Heather for your remarks in regards to reading your poetry.

Performing in front of people who are badly visionally impaired as they love to hear it, and it makes no difference to them what so ever that they can not see the performance, yet judges frown upon it now days.

18 years ago many competitors read in competitions and won top prizes, just check with the results in old ABPA magazines.

In 1985 I had 147 consecutive one shot kills ( not missing one) shooting foxes professionally THAT WAS MY SKILL.
But remembering words of a poem is not in my capability owing to- - -

Many performers are not as accurate in reciting a poem as a person who is reading it is.
As the visual performer they can and do cover it up.

As Heather said at Crookwell she closed her eyes and listened to one performer, just like blind people do, and that is what tells the story the way it was meant to be.

You hear good singers sing but you cannot see them. But you can hear them.

Your ears can tell you most things, but your eyes can be deceived often especially in performance competitions

bill the old battler

Bob Pacey
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Re: Poetry Reading

Post by Bob Pacey » Mon May 12, 2014 7:09 pm

Horses for courses really.

Really depends on the audience expectation and the event. I will quite often read to share a new poem with a audience just to gauge the reaction before committing to memory and I find the reaction is in most cases no different.

Saying that I will not even record a poem if I have not memorised it as I fine that I'm able to give a prospective purchaser a product almost identical to what they are buying if fact I've had patrons say that it is much more enjoyable to listen to the cd after they have seen the poem performed.

I encourage anyone to get up and have a go be that either to read or from memory the main thing is to get it out there and share what we do.

Cheers Bob
The purpose in life is to have fun.
After you grasp that everything else seems insignificant !!!

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David Campbell
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Re: Poetry Reading

Post by David Campbell » Mon May 12, 2014 8:00 pm

Good points Heather, Neville and Bill. The whole question of whether you can see a performer, and what difference it makes, is interesting. With one of my poems ("A Father's Prayer") I sometimes invite the audience to close their eyes and just listen. There's nothing to see, and I'd defy anyone who didn't know to pick whether or not I was reading. Some might "do it better" when a poem's memorised, but that can't be automatically assumed as true for everyone.

That TV show "The Voice" requires the judges to make initial assessments on sound alone, so, theoretically, the singers could have the words in front of them. And how would the judges know if they did? Would it matter? It'd be fascinating to use this technique in a bush poetry performance comp.

Does Jack Thompson read or recite from memory on his Banjo CDs? Can anyone tell? If he's reading, is anyone going to say he's "dumbing down" Paterson's work? (Thompson went to a festival in Orange early this year and gave "readings" of the poems.)

Memorisation is a huge advantage with a very visual piece...often something humorous that involves a lot of movement/costumes/facial expressions etc. (Greg North and his hats, for example)...because it gives you more physical freedom, especially if you have to hold a microphone, and hence more opportunity to provoke a strong audience response. But with a serious poem, getting the words and intonation exactly right is the first priority, so sound is more important than sight. This is where reading can come into its own.

And yes, Bob, the main thing is to get out there and have a go...and if reading is talked up instead of down we might get quite a few more people (like Maureen) not shying away from the word "performance".


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