4 rules for poetry readings – guest blog post by Marilyn McCabe

I am reading this afternoon at the Bowery Poetry Club and I will try to keep this in mind. I hope that all goes well; it is the reason I have come to New York City,

Trish Hopkinson

I went to a good poetry reading the other evening. But, boy, I wish I the poet hadn’t kept doing things that undermined his own presentation of his own work. The poet violated almost every rule in my unwritten how-to-do-a-poetry-reading rule book. Which spurred me to write down some of my rules.

Rule 1: Speak slowly. (But not too slowly.) Practice a cadence that allows you to speak clearly but that seems natural. I’m a great admirer of Carolyn Forche’s reading style, and Lucie Brock-Broido, for example. The poet I heard the other night spoke quickly in his intros to the poems, which I guess is okay, but he didn’t change his cadence much when he waded into the poem, and sometimes he was a line into the poem before I realized he’d gone from opening remarks into the poem. And some fine lines were thrown aside in his rush…

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