Wednesday, November 6, 2013

THE Joy of Prosody: How to do a great reading

By Liz Mastin

I was fortunate to be asked to do a poetry reading last summer at the Fog Dog Art Gallery in Arlington, Washington (state). I would be in the company of  better known poets of the Pacific Northwest, thus I was a little apprehensive. Fortunately I had taken a workshop the previous spring at the Whidbey Island Writer’s Conference entitled “How to do a Fantastic Reading with Craig English.”

Craig was full of information about how to do one’s readings (whether poetry or prose), and after he presented his lesson, we each had the opportunity to read some of our work so that he could correct our errors. Among his lesson points for doing a fantastic reading were:

· Stretch before the reading just as you would before you work out.
· Vocalize with humming, light singing, tongue twisters, etc.
· Breathing exercises helpful.

· Pick the right material for the environment, age of audience, setting, etc.
· Know your time limit and stick to it.
· Practice. Know what you want to emphasize, where the story builds and climaxes (or the poem). Note the difficult lines or passages.
· Pencil in notes to yourself.
· Bring water (it’s okay to pause and take a drink.)
· Control your environment such a asking for a chair if you wish. Get comfortable.
· Plan what you want to say to the audience beforehand (bring notes if you wish.)
· Be loud enough for the people in the back to hear you and ask if you are not sure.

Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah. - Rumi
· Breathe just before you start your reading and between sentences.
· Slow down.
· Know the audience is on your side.
· Don’t hide your face behind the manuscript.
· Look up (if you feel comfortable) but keep your spot on your page with your finger.
· Don’t worry about how your audience listens.
· Enjoy yourself!
· Get the feeling of your poem (of each character in prose.)
· Savor your words
· Deal with mistakes in a normal, confident manner. Audiences love it!

· Plan what you want to say afterwards.
· Sell your books.
· Be gracious and have fun!

Craig also advised practicing before a mirror prior to reading and stressed one cannot speak too slowly nor too loudly. You want to be heard and understood.

Liz Mastin Bio
Liz Mastin is a poet who lives in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho during the summer and Bullhead City, Arizona in winter. She thrives on the study of the great poets, their biographies, the schools of poetry to which they adhered, and the poetic conventions of the times in which they lived.

While she enjoys free verse as well as metrical poetry, her main interest lies in prosody. She notices that most of the enduring poems are those we can remember and recite. Liz enjoys poetry forms such as the sonnet, the sestina, the couplet, blank verse, simple quatrains, etc. and she hopes to see modern poets regain interest in studied metrical poetry.

Liz is currently putting together her first collection of poems which should be completed this winter. The poems are a mixture of metrical and free verse poems.


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