Poetry essay: reading poetry aloud

Poetry can be read in two general ways.  It can be read silently in a person’s mind, or it can be read aloud.  This essay focuses on reading poetry aloud.  When a poem is read aloud it can have an impact on the poem.

When reading poetry aloud, there are four general situations.  They vary by who wrote the poem and who the poem is being read to.  They are:

  • A person can read a poem they wrote aloud to themselves.
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  • A person can read a poem they wrote aloud to someone else.
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  • A person can read a poem someone else wrote aloud to themselves.
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  • A person can read a poem someone else wrote aloud to someone else.

A person reads a poem they wrote aloud to themselves

In the first situation, a person reads a poem they wrote aloud to themselves.  This might be as they are writing the poem, or sometime after it is finished.

If a person reads a poem they wrote aloud to themselves, while they write it, it can have an effect on what they write.

First, reading a poem aloud, allows the person to actually hear the words.  This can have a different effect than when the person reads the words in their mind.  It can make things sound differently.

Second, it can be a good way to find errors in a poem.  It can be another check of the poem.

Third, it can alert the poet to form elements they need to include.  For example, if when a poet reads a poem aloud, they feel like they should pause at a certain point, but that effect is not built into the poem through either a line break or an indention, they can add that.  It can help make the poem more how the poet meant.

If a person reads a poem they wrote aloud to themselves sometime after they wrote it, it can be a good way to test the effectiveness of the poem.  Again, a poem can sound different when it is read aloud versus in the mind, and reading a poem aloud after time has passed can give a person a better sense of how the poem really works.  It can be a good way to see if a poem has the effect the person wants.

A person can read a poem they wrote aloud to someone else

This situation can occur in different ways.  A person might read a poem they wrote to an individual, for example to ask the person what it sounds like.  They could also read a poem to a group of people, for example as part of a poetry event.

When a person reads a poem they wrote aloud, they can utilize inflection and tone of voice.  They can read the poem how they meant it to be read.  This can be a benefit but also something negative.

The benefit of a person reading a poem how they meant it to be read, is that the person gets their message across.  They can express the poem exactly how it was meant.  This can be a good thing if the person is reading a poem simply to have people hear it.

Alternatively though, if the person is reading the poem to someone else, with the intention of having the other person give their opinion of the poem, this can hurt that effort.

Because the person is changing the poem with the way they read it, the poem will sound different than if another person had just read the poem to themselves.  If the person who wrote the poem were to base the level of effectiveness of the poem on how a person responded to their reading, they might get an effectiveness level that is different than it would have been had the other person simply read the poem to themselves.  When a person reads a poem they didn’t write to themselves, they don’t get the writer’s tone of voice and inflection built in.  This is important for a writer to realize and they should make sure they build those elements in as best they can so a poem can sound the way they wanted, even if they aren’t reading it.

A person can read a poem someone else wrote aloud to themselves

When a person reads a poem someone else wrote aloud, it can change how the poem sounds.  It, in some way, takes more effort and focus to read a poem aloud than to read it just in the mind.  This can change how a poem sounds.

This can be an interesting exercise for someone who reads poetry.  They could try different things, such as reading some poems in their mind and others aloud, or reading the same poem first one way, and then another.  They could see how it changes their perception of the poem.

A person can read a poem someone else wrote aloud to someone else

When a person reads a poem someone else wrote aloud to someone else, they add something to the poem.  They add their tone of voice and inflection.  They change the poem by how they read it.

This can be a good thing in that it adds more interest to poetry.  If a person hears the same poem read by different people, they will hear it in different ways.

It can also be good for learning about the reader.  A listener can tell something about a person by how they read a poem.  Did they read a part seriously or sarcastically?  Did they read a part with a normal tone, or a somber or excited one?  A reader can learn about a person by how they interpret something.

Alternatively, this can be a bad thing.  Because the reader adds to the poem, it can distort the poem for the listener.  The listener will hear a version of the poem that is different than had they read it themselves.  This alters the listener’s perception and can make it difficult for them to read the poem again with a clean view.

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