By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 08-20-2019 | First published: 12-01-2007
So you want to learn how to read poetry aloud. Good!
It's likely then you're preparing for a special occasion where you are going to stand in front of others to deliver the poem you've chosen.
For many people this is terrifying.
They're scared they'll stumble over the words, won't understand what the poem is about and consequently make a complete fool of themselves.
If that is you, relax.
A poem is not a poisonous snake. It will not bite and you do not have to tip-toe around it.
Learning how to read poetry aloud is relatively straightforward and with practice you may even get to enjoy it!
Read your poem through silently several times to familiarize yourself with its core ideas and images.
The more you understand the poem, the more likely your audience will be able to understand it too.
Allow yourself to see the images created by the words in your imagination. Likewise feel the emotions.
The more strongly you identify with or own the poem the easier it will be for your audience to follow.
Be sure to look up any unfamiliar words in an online dictionary for their meaning and pronunciation.
Read the poem quietly aloud to yourself following the guidelines given by the punctuation, listening for its musicality or beat.
If you need them, there are tips for interpreting punctuation here.
Read slowly. Allow each word its space. The temptation is to rush. Resist it.
Once you've 'got the flow', stand up and read the poem aloud authoritatively.
Now that you're more confident 'play' with your delivery, experimenting with vocal variety.
For example, what happens if you stress this word rather than that word?
Say your poem as many ways as you can. Say it loud. Say it soft. Say it gathering speed, getting faster and faster. Say it slow and low. In short, have fun. Experiment!
You can find more about playing with vocal variety here.
Rehearse in front of several friends before going 'live'.
Have them give you feed back on:
Incorporate their feedback and then present your poem.
The ability to read poetry aloud is a gift of immense value to your audience because the right poem, read well, expresses with grace and clarity thoughts and feelings that are often difficult to find appropriate words for in ordinary prose.
For instance I recently read this beautiful Bub Bridger poem - Wild Daisies at my niece's wedding. (See the excerpt below. This is the last segment of the poem.)
If you're wanting a reading about love that is both simple and profound do take a look. At the reception I got numerous compliments for choosing the poem and for the way I delivered it. Sadly I could only accept half of them - those about its performance as Ruth, my niece, selected it.
(What great taste she has! -:) )