Poetry Out Loud

When she contacted me about this month of poetry posts, Serena made the suggestion that we record a vlog of us reading our favorite poems, and I wish I had time (or the guts) to do that and share it with you. I’ve been thinking about that suggestion all week, though, and about how important it is for poetry to be spoken.

I love reading poetry out loud, though usually when I’m by myself. I’m a little bit self conscious of my voice when I’m recorded or when people are listening, but because of that, it feels like a very private thing. When the house is quiet and there is no one else around, you can often find me reading a poem to no one but myself.

Some days it’s a poem that is just dying to read, that I want to hear and feel in a way that I can’t when I’m reading silently. Sometimes it’s a poem that I’ve written myself, and I’m reading it out loud to make sure that it sounds the way it reads. Often, though, it’s a poem that I don’t really understand or one that I don’t particularly like. Sometimes, things that are hidden when you read a poem are uncovered when you speak it. A poem that gives me trouble will unfold and become clear when I say it out loud. A poem that I didn’t find particularly clever is suddenly genius when I can hear exactly what the poet wanted me to hear. It doesn’t always happen, but poetry is, often, meant to be spoken out loud and I can miss things when I read them.
When I’m proofreading, I often read out loud. I hear mistakes better than I see them. (I’m sure this is terribly annoying for anyone who asks me to edit something, especially at work.) In that same way, I hear the beauty of a poem before I might see it. When I review books of poetry or post poems on my blog, I often get comments about how difficult poetry is, but I’m a big believer that a lot of poetry is for the masses. Some of it is difficult for sure, but it’s just like any other medium. If anything has been my mantra since I started blogging about poetry it’s this: there is a poem out there for you. If reading poetry hasn’t done it for you so far, can I just suggest that you read it out loud? You never know what you might hear.

This post is part of Serena’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour. You can check out the rest of the participants here!

10 thoughts on “Poetry Out Loud

  1. I’m currently trying to make an effort to read more poetry, and there have been so many occasions both now and in the past where I just don’t see the beauty in the words until I’m deep in confusion and end up reading it out loud. I think poetry’s something that has to be spoken as well as just read, especially if there doesn’t appear to be much rhythm when you’re reading it in your head. It’s weird, in a way, how different reading out loud can be, for so many different types of writing.

  2. One of the things I used to love pointing out to students when we were studying Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall” is how hard one of the lines is to say out loud, how you stumble at that part: “what heart heard of, ghost guessed.” I would suggest that this difficult line is something we all stumble over, both literally and figuratively.
    When I hear myself reading out loud, I hear a trace of southern accent, which I don’t think I have anymore, so it’s disconcerting. But yes, most poems should be read out loud, or at least mouthed to yourself, silently, so you can taste the words.

  3. I tell people this all the time. When we did our first poetry book for book club I suggested members read the book out loud to themselves or read poems aloud that they didn’t understand when they read them silently. Thanks for participating this year.

  4. I read poetry the same way 🙂 It’s the only time I read aloud. And I do it without even thinking about it…but whenever I’m reading a collection of poetry I read it aloud…sometimes barely audible, but my lips are always moving. It’s just important to me to hear it spoken.

  5. I don’t ever read poetry aloud, but I admit I don’t read much poetry generally. I am listening to a free verse novel right now, though, in honor of National Poetry month 🙂 It’s called Make Lemonade.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree, poetry especially should be read out loud. Our literature teacher always did that before we started analyzing poems, or even stories that were short, and it went infinitely better than when she didn’t.

  7. I also feel that poetry sounds wonderful — reading aloud brings out nuance that the eye might miss. It’s why I enjoy going to readings, hearing the author speak their lines.

    Although my husband makes me laugh by reading poetry aloud with a fake English accent sometimes…not so deep or meaningful 😉

  8. I think I learned from having a few classes on poetry in college, especially contemporary American poetry, that poetry is more easily understood when one hears it. Sometimes hearing a poem really brings it to life.

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