Because I write my poems with the intention of being able to read them, I read them out loud when editing to see if I like the way they sound. I believe poems are meant to be shared, and part of that sharing is reading them.One of my pet peeves is hearing someone read their poem in a sing-song voice or monotonous tone. Even if the poem is well-written, either of those two styles of reading make me want to bang my head on the table.
The poems meant to be read silently and the poems meant to be read aloud are different kinds of poems. The poet can expect a much greater willingness, and often ability, to focus on the poem through a lens of patience and knowledge when the poem is read silently. Poems to be read aloud must be able to be taken in by a somewhat diverse crowd the members of which cannot be trusted to have the patience to stick with a complex presentation nor to have the knowledge to recognize what they're hearing. The only poems written to be read silently that can be profitably read aloud are those that are familiar enough to the audience so it is the performance and not the poem that is being appreciated in the moment.
Good questions!Personally, I'm a selfish writer. It's rare that I'm thinking about either reader or listener when I write. I simply don't care in the moment of writing. I write for myself.But, if I choose to read to others, then I feel I have an obligation to engage with the audience in a way that gives them something worthwhile in exchange for their willingness to listen to my words.
I guess I'd say that I write for an audience, but that audience is me, or at least, an imaginary reader who is pretty much identical to me.I write for the words in my head, sort of an ideal performance where every word is emphasized and heard clearly and distinctly. The way you perform the words, I've noticed, can make a drastic difference in the way the poem is perceived and received. Reading it right can make a bad line good, and, for that matter, can make a good poem bad.
I think all art is communication. Whether I am communicating with myself to express a personal experience, or communicating with a larger audience, that communication is something I feel always needs to be held in mind while writing. Some poems I write with the intention of reading aloud, some only for myself or for one specific person to read. But regardless, I still always feel that a poem should have an auditory element, even if it is complex. Great poems, even complex ones, can be read aloud effectively. I agree that a poor reading can make a great poem bad. And having an great poem is not an excuse for a lack of auditory aesthetics. But inaccessible is not the same as great. If communication on some level fails with the poem's desired reader, then the poem has failed.
Good questions, good comments.
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