What Drives A Poet

Recurring debates on important poetry topics.
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Terry
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Terry » Sun May 08, 2011 7:56 pm

Hi Heather & Neville,
Although I favor reading if that is what you wish to do, I personally (From observation not experience) think that a well memorized presentation has a lot going for it, the best presenters I have seen have always worked from memory, but saying that perhaps if a reader practiced and performed as much perhaps it might be different.

Terry

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Irene
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Irene » Sun May 08, 2011 10:53 pm

At all of the poets breakfasts I have attended in WA, reading your poems is allowed - again though, it would be expected that you are familiar with the poem first, and read it well. At the montly musters, they have a 'Reading from the Classics' section to allow people to get some confidence at being in front of people. This has indeed fostered new poets, and encouraged them to give it a go.
Even if they don't change the competition rules, being able to read at a breakfast still gives newbies an opportunity to get up and get their confidence. They may or may not choose to take that step forward to reciting, but they are still able to get their poems out to a wider audience, and I agree - I have heard many very well received poems that have been read instead of recited.

Should they change the competition rules? I'm inclined to think that there may not be a need to do so, so long as there are plenty of opportunities for poets to read at the breakfasts, and provide the entertainment that so many of them are so good at. After all, as per written work, winning competitions is not the only qualifying criteria of a good poet/entertainer.
There are many successful poets who have never won or entered competitions - that doesn't mean they are not successful.
Catchya
Irene
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Zondrae
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Zondrae » Mon May 09, 2011 7:39 am

morning all,

I agree with Irene. There are opportunities for readers, outside of competition, to gain confidence in front of a crowd. If I were to go to an old folks home to entertain, I may consider reading some of the classics that I have only half memorised.
But if I am in the programme of a festival, I think the audience would expect me to 'perform' not read. I have, on occasion, read a new, or theme appropriate, piece that I didn't have time to memorise. eg recent memorials for David Meyers. One would expect newer performers to be nerveous and perhaps fluff lines. One good thing about writing my own stuff is that if I muck up lines, not many people know.
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Bob Pacey
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Bob Pacey » Mon May 09, 2011 8:09 am

The down side is Zondrae that you can gaze into the crowd for help and nobody can ! I agree if the occassion suits and you give a small explaination as to the reason that you are going to read the particular poem it is ok.

I ( to coin a phrase ) cut my teeth in doing a variety of charitable do's and still do them as they helped greatly with delivery and presentation.

So many poems and so little brain cells left active. OOOOHHHH


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

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keats
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by keats » Mon May 09, 2011 9:05 am

Those last two posts compliment each other so well. I have written and read many a poem that has been written for a one off occasion, weddings, funerals, Gold Coast Suns Victories (had to get that one in) and I know that our top performing poets have as well. We have always said that to waste brain cell on memorising a poem for one performance really is silly and nobody, not even the harshest poet critic, would expect it, but for works which are or are to be part of your regular performance, then memory is vital.

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David Campbell
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by David Campbell » Mon May 09, 2011 1:28 pm

Reciting is a wonderful skill, and we have some terrific performers in the bush poetry world, but I think it’s a pity if this pushes the public reading of poetry into the background. As has already been indicated in this thread, there are a number of perfectly valid reasons why someone might choose to read rather than recite, and it would be unfortunate if reading were to be discouraged. Nor should it be assumed that reading is automatically a precursor to reciting. As Maureen says, it’s a matter of horses for courses, and people have to feel comfortable with what they’re doing.

I have recited in the past (and spent many years in amateur theatre), but now I read my poems in any public performance. At the recent National Folk Festival I read every single word and (although perhaps they were only being polite) nobody said afterwards that it detracted from my presentation. Yes, reading is less stressful than reciting, but it still requires careful preparation if it is to be done well. I, like Neville, appreciate the flexibility reading gives me in preparing a program because, with about 100 poems to choose from (many more if free verse is included), I can present a considerable range of alternatives. Neil’s observation that memorisation is vital for poems that are part of your “regular performance” is fine, but I don’t have any such thing. I prepared two completely different programs for the NFF, neither of which I’d presented before, and only decided which one to use when I saw the venue.

Reading also gives me precision of delivery (Heather’s comment about the importance of delivering well is relevant here), and the opportunity to rewrite poems to suit particular circumstances. Then there’s the time that can be devoted to writing rather than memorising. I’d rather spend an hour’s walk nutting out three or four rough verses of a new poem than memorising something already written.

I understand Bob’s comment about memorising allowing you to concentrate on the actions, but some poems don’t need actions, particularly if they’re serious pieces. And not everyone can successfully blend the spoken word with fluid and appropriate actions. Gifted comic performers can have a whale of a time, but some poems just require the audience to listen…even shutting their eyes, as Heather suggests!

We should, as Vic says, encourage any form of presentation, and the idea of a separate section for readers in performance comps might be worth looking at. I sometimes wonder how many budding poets come along to a poets’ breakfast and are intimidated by the performances they see…to the extent that they quietly put away their piece of paper because hardly anyone else seems to be reading. At my first breakfast I did exactly that. If reading does lead on to the memorisation of poems, then that’s terrific, but there shouldn’t be pressure to follow this path. It’s the communication that’s important, and it’s a matter of finding what best suits each individual performer and then working to optimise that form of presentation. To be discouraged, and not communicate at all, would be the worst possible outcome.

Cheers
David

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keats
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by keats » Mon May 09, 2011 2:01 pm

We will agree to disagree here David. When we speak of Performance Poetry at the major festivals, Corporate Functions, etc. we are talking of an Entertainment medium that a lot of the time people pay to come and be entertained. How long would Billy Connelly or Jeff Gaffigan last if they stood on stage and 'read' their jokes at a show? The festivals I speak of attract crowds on many hundred and in some cases this year, thousands, and all to watch the Bush Poets. Therefore the show must be professional, slick and leave the crowd with a hunger to return. I know that 95% of what we do is comedy, but who and what is attracting the crowds and converting them to poetry fans in large numbers? Then it becomes a vehicle whereby we can introduce a traditional and modern serious performer amongst it. Reading is fine at smaller festivals and events, but if people pay to see Poetry, they expect a high degree of Professionalism.

I referred in an earlier post about the difference in written and performance poetry and the pros and cons of both, and I will reiterate that if today's leading Performance Poets up and left the ABPA and stopped supporting, judging, and acting as M.C.s at Championships, then I can guarantee that Bush Poetry and the ABPA, the opportunities and venues we have built up will take a massive backwards step. I have been promoting Bush Poetry in my own style around Australia for over 15 years and have seen it's popularity soar. I have also seen some Poet's performances nose dive, and 99 times out of 100 it is because they have chosen to read at a performance festival. You lose eye contact, audience interaction, you can't gesture properly and your pauses are stiff and sterile.

I mentioned that there are times and places where poets can get away with reading, but on the big stage, it just doesn't happen. I will continue travelling Australia this year and workshopping Performance Poetry with kids and adults, and I will also workshop the written word. But I know only too well which one it is that has drawn such a legion of fans to Poet's Shows over the last 10 or so years. And I also know that if we take it away from them, they will simply desert Poetry as an entertainment medium, leaving us back in the 'read around the campfire days'.

Neil

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Maureen K Clifford
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Mon May 09, 2011 3:25 pm

Being Libran I see both sides of the argument and both side have equally valid points of view...guess it is one of those things that perhaps there will never be a cut and dried solution too.

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http://scribblybarkpoetry.blogspot.com.au/


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: What Drives A Poet

Post by Neville Briggs » Mon May 09, 2011 3:51 pm

David. You have set out a reasonable and rational argument and I agree with everything that you say.


I dunno Neil, sometimes I think going back to reading round the campfire might not be such a bad thing. That's what they mainly did with Lawson and Paterson and they have become sort of immortal.
Neville
" Prose is description, poetry is presence " Les Murray.

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keats
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Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by keats » Mon May 09, 2011 4:21 pm

Fair enough Neville, and around the campfire is great. But where does that leave the ABPA? Where does that leave forums like this? How many people get to hear or read our work. I just get very annoyed when Poets have busted their guts in the past to get venues such as Tamworth, Gympie, Port Fairy, Mildura, Boyup Brook, Woodford, Canberra, Dunnydo,(and the ABPA) etc etc etc, up and running for poets to have venues to perform in and then they seem not to care about how they present their work to a public who has endeared what they have seen elsewhere. I spend so much time trying to organise walk-up breakfasts so ALL poets can get up and practice for comps and other venues. But now it seems that poets would rather utilise these venues just as reading venues and in some cases try to drag it down from what it has grown to. Take Mildura. We get up to 700 people a morning over 10 days. All the walk up poets used to read. I threw the challange out to them and now you hardly see anybody read, and a lot are once a year poets. They take extreme pride in their improvement.

But I suppose each to their own. I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing, I suppose, and maybe spend that time I dedicate to other poet's advancement purely on my own career.

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