Poetry essay: How to improve the experience of reading poetry aloud in public

If you write poetry, the time may come when you want to, or as a requirement for something like a class, have to, read poetry aloud in public.  For example, maybe you are going to be part of a poetry reading at a coffee house.

This can be a trying experience.  Many people have trouble speaking in public normally, and reading poetry, something that is subject to interpretation, can be even harder.  Will the audience understand it?  Will they understand it in the same way intended?  Will it be received well?

There are some things you can do to make this a better experience.

First, if you know whom you audience will be and can choose whatever poem or poems you want to read, then choose poems that will fit and appeal to your audience.  Pick something that fits with how they understand things, is something they will understand, will match their perception of poetry, and they will like.  If you like serious free verse poetry, but your audience likes funny limericks, present funny limericks.

Second, choose a poem that isn’t too obscure.  You will have a better experience if your poem is understandable.

Third, practice.  Practice a lot.  Don’t just practice reading the poem, but also practice how you will read it.  Where will you pause?  What words will you emphasize?  How will you move?

Fourth, if you are writing the poem for the reading (as opposed to reading one that has already been written), then write what you say instead of later saying what you wrote.  In other words, as you compose the poem, say it aloud first.  Compose it by speaking it.  Write what you speak.  Make sure the words sound nice when spoken.  Make sure there is flow.  If you do things the other way around, you may end up with something that might sound nice when written, but sounds long or doesn’t flow when read aloud. (As an example of this, this essay might sound nice read on the page, but would be too cumbersome as it is written to be presented aloud.  It is written in complete sentences without normal speech transitions.  This might make it sound like text instead of speech if presented.)

Fifth, test your reading of your poem in front of one or more people you know.  This will give you a taste of the experience and you can gauge how the poem comes across.  If you don’t have anyone you can test your poem for, then record it on a camera.  Watch it when you are done and see how it sounds.  This can also be a good exercise, because the act of reading your poem to something can make you feel like you are being heard.  It can give you a sense of the experience.

Sixth, pick a subject matter for your poem you are knowledgeable about and are comfortable with.  Don’t present something you don’t have knowledge of.  You may be asked questions later and you want to know you can answer them.

Seventh, similarly, read a poem you can explain if asked about it.  Some listeners may want to know what a certain line meant for example.  You should be able to tell them.

Eighth, some people when they present something publicly, either speak slower or faster than normal, and either quieter or louder than normal.  If this is you, and you can identify what you do, then practice doing the opposite before you present.  For example, if you identify that you read too quickly and quietly, then practice reading slowly and loudly.  When you present, the experience may cause you to speed up and be more quiet, but since you are trying to compensate for this, you speech may come across normally.

Ninth, if you can go to the place you are going to read beforehand, go.  See what it is like.  See what the space is like.  Look at it from the place where you will be speaking.  Try and make the place and the view of it become familiar.  This can make presenting there easier.

Tenth, try and found out what the expectations are of the person putting on the event.  How long do they expect poems to be?  What content is acceptable?  What kinds of poetry are they expecting?  What’s normal for the event?  If you can read or listen to poems that have met expectations at previous events, that would help as you decide what to read for the event you will be in.

Poetry essay: The experiences of a poet aren’t seen

Yesterday’s essay was about what goes into a poem that isn’t seen by readers.  It focused on the work of writing and changes to a poem that happen before it’s finished.

This essay focuses on something else that goes into a poem that isn’t necessarily seen by readers – the personal experiences of a poet.

Sometimes poets write poetry that express ideas and emotions and are about situations to which they aren’t connected.  For example, a poet might write a poem about having a heart attack, even though neither they nor anyone they know has had one.

This idea isn’t bad.  A lot of knowledge of experiences can be gained without direct experience.  A poet can successfully express things even if they haven’t been through them.  Also, the emotion and ideas a poet gets across aren’t somehow less just because the poet hasn’t been through something.

In other cases though, a poet has gone through something before they write a poem.  Maybe the poet had a heart attack.  Maybe the poet went through something else.

Sometimes readers can tell that a poet has personal knowledge of something.  The poet might include details and ideas that someone who hasn’t been through something might not know nor understand.  This can come across to readers, especially if the reader has been through the thing the poet is writing about.

In other situations, a poet may directly tell readers about their experience in addition to the poetry they write.  For example, a poet may let readers know they had a heart attack before the readers read their poems about them.

In other situations though, readers might not know what a poet has gone through.  Sometimes a poet doesn’t tell readers, and sometimes readers can’t tell when they read a poem.

These types of situations can affect both the poet and the reader.

From the poet’s perspective, it can feel somewhat unfulfilling to have their work seen as just another work, when to them it is very personal.  Imagine a poet went through a traumatic experience.  It might feel bad to them to have people read their poetry about it as if the poet had no connection to what they were writing about.  It might make them feel bad to think that readers might view their work as if it was written with an outside perspective of something.  There is something about going through an experience that makes expressing ideas about it personal.

From the reader’s perspective, a reader might not fully appreciate a poem if they don’t understand the poet’s circumstances.  A poem about homelessness, for example, would be read differently if a reader didn’t know the poet had been homeless, than if they knew they had been.  In these situations, a reader might not get the depth of emotion the poet is trying to express.

For poets writing about something they personally have been through, there are some steps they can take to improve the situation.

First, as mentioned above, a poet can tell readers about their situation.  This telling can take various forms.  It might be many pages of explanations or just a short note before a poem.

This can be a good way to explain things in some situations.  Sometimes what a person has gone through is so significant that readers should overtly know about it before reading the poet’s work.

Second, a poet can try to include details and emotions in their work.  They can focus on those things that only someone connected to an experience might know.  They can write about what particular moments were like and what particular experiences felt like.

If a poet does this well, readers should be able to understand that the poet is at the very least knowledgeable about what they are writing about, as well as potentially connected to it.

For poets, having readers understand the connection to your work can be important.  It can be important for both the poet and for the reader.  If a poet can in some way get this connection across, both will be better for it.

Poetry essay: What goes into a poem isn’t seen

When a poet presents a finished poem, in many cases the poem wasn’t written that way.  As the poet worked on the poem, changes were made.  Lines were changed.  Words were changed.  Form elements were modified.  The poem took shape as the poet worked on it.  How it looked at different stages, might have been quite different than how it looked when finished.

This idea raises some issues for poets as they present their work.

First, a poet should understand that those who read their poetry might not perceive the amount of work that went into it.

When a person reads a wonderful sounding stanza of poetry for example, they don’t know if it was just written that way, or if it went through multiple variations.  This is something a poet should keep in mind when they present their work.

A poet wants their poetry to be appreciated, but they should understand that many readers won’t appreciate the work that goes into it, because they don’t understand the work that goes into it.

Second, sometimes a poet can remember what a poem was like at different stages.  A poet knows what words they changed, what lines were removed, and so forth.  This can sometimes influence the poet’s perception of their own work.  The poet knows what it was, and so they see how it is, differently.

Third, in addition to a poet perceiving their work differently from a reader, a poet might actually remember parts of poem that are no longer there, and understand those parts as part of the work.

For example, if a poet had a poem where a flower dies, and when working on the poem they at first explicitly state this, but then later they remove the statement, the poet might remember this line and understand the poem differently than a reader might.  A reader, not reading the line, might, for example, think the flower only wilted.

Fourth, as a poem develops it might improve.  The first rendition of it might not be as good as the last.  When a poet presents their work, they are presenting a refined product, and not a raw one.

This can have an effect on how people perceive the poet’s poetry.  People might think the poet comes up with the work simply as it is presented.  They might not understand that there were preceding drafts.

This idea can sometimes create a sense of disillusionment for readers if they ever watch a poet create a poem.  They may have thought that the work was created effortlessly and be disappointed when they find out it isn’t.  It would almost be like a person watching a great artist draw and the person seeing the artist erase.  They may have never considered that the artist made changes or mistakes.


When a poet creates a poem, work goes into it that isn’t normally seen.  A poet should be aware of this idea and how it impacts the perception of their work.

As an interesting exercise, a poet might record their work on a poem, for example be using a computer program that records what is on their screen.  It might interesting for a poet to present the development of a poem, in addition to its final form.  This would give readers a better insight into the poet’s work.

P. S. If you like M. Sakran’s blog, please consider following it.  There is a button in the sidebar you can click to do so.

Poetry essay: You should read poetry

Although it may sound illogical, sometimes people who write poetry, don’t read poetry.  There are a number of reasons this might be.

First, it could be that a person is interested in expressing their own ideas, but isn’t necessarily interested in reading the ideas of others.  Although it might seem slightly bad, it could be that the person simply is more focused on getting something out, than in taking something in.

Second, it could be, that although a person likes writing poetry, they find that they don’t enjoy reading it.  It could be because the person likes a particular style of poetry and finds that the poetry they encounter doesn’t fit this style.

Third, it could be that a person has read some poetry and found that they didn’t like what they read.  It could be that they generalized poetry from this, and decided not to read anymore.

Whatever the reason for not reading poetry, if you write poetry, you really should read poetry.  There are a number of reasons for this.

First, if you want people to read your poetry, you should read the poetry of others.  While there isn’t really a direct connection (just because you read the poetry of others doesn’t mean people will read your work) it can give you a feeling that there should be.  You read the work of others, and therefore you can feel that others should read your work.  This idea works best if many people buy into it.  Although there isn’t a direct logic here, if does sort of make sense that if you want people to do something, you should do it first.

(As a note to this, if you tell people about the poetry you read, and let them know about this idea and why you are reading it, it might inspire them to read your own work.)

Second, reading poetry can give you ideas for your own poetry.  Although you shouldn’t use people’s words, can get ideas from other poems.  You might read poems about topics you haven’t considered or showing perspectives you hadn’t thought of and this can help you get ideas for your own work.

Third, reading poetry can help you improve your own poetry.  Again, although you shouldn’t use other people’s words, you can get ideas for metaphors and symbolism that you may not have thought of.  You may also encounter form elements you find you could use.

Fourth, if you look broadly for poetry, you should be able to find some style of work you like.  Check out published poets, poetry in magazines, poetry on blogs, even poetry on greeting cards.  Don’t worry about what you perceive others think about poetry.  If you look broadly, you should find something that you enjoy.

If you are looking for poetry to read, there are a number of poems on this blog.  You can read both poems and poems with explanations.

You might also check out M. Sakran’s collection of poetry, First Try, or M. Sakran’s self-published collection of poems with explanations, Understanding: poems with explanations.  First Try contains one hundred poems, and Understanding: poems with explanations contains twenty explained poems.

There are also poems that are parts of sets of photography, artwork, poetry, and fiction, on MSakran.com.

Wherever you look for poetry, if you write poetry, you should find poetry to read.  It can be an important idea in having others read your work, it can give you ideas, it can improve your writing, and you can enjoy what you read.


P. S. If you like M. Sakran’s blog of and about poetry and poetry related things, please mention it on your social media sites.

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.

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

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

  • 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.