Friday, June 14, 2019

Moonlight Musings

Poetry readings, their significance and general appeal:

In the words of Dylan Thomas; "Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own."

In the past few weeks I have come to realize how substantial poetry can be when it's read, how a person's voice can affect the one who is listening and instill an idea, attitude and emotion firmly into his mind. 

I believe reading a poem out loud adds a whole new level of intimacy and forms a sort of understanding and bond between the audience and poet though I admit I hadn't attempted it until last week. 

Poems in a sense are aural compositions. W.H. Auden, a British poet who has been widely anthologized in major collections of poetry made a case for listening to poems when he stated; "No poem, which when mastered is not better heard than read is good poetry." In other words, good poetry works better through one's ear rather than one's eye.

Reading poetry is partly attitude and technique. It's a combination of general pause for breath, effect and emphasis on an interpretive question that possesses more than one answer.

All that sounds quite intriguing and simple but the one thing we need to remember is to relax and have a firm grip and control upon the nerves.

And I should know, if you recall I shared a poetry reading in the Poetry Pantry with you all last week which was included along with a poem written for Ella's guest appearance at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

One would (as an initial reaction) think that 'oh she must be used to reading poems out loud,' but in truth I was extremely nervous while recording as it was my first attempt at reading a poem. It took me at least two to three rehearsals before finally settling down and hitting the publish button. On this note I would like to thank and give a big shout out to Magaly Guerrero who encouraged me to explore the options and joys of poetry reading.

And because poems are meant to be heard is why us poets have to understand how to manipulate sounds and cadence of poetry. That cadence is known as "Poetic Meter." All language comes in syllables that are either loud or soft. For instance, consider the word 'Poetry.' It comprises of three syllables where the first is much louder than the middle. When we as poets utilize poetic meter, we tend to stack those loud and soft syllables in a way that creates a sort of rhythm which is hard to comprehend unless the poem is heard.

Poetry at its best calls forth our deep being. It challenges us to break out of our comfort zone and is a magical art. Here is an amazing article that further explains how a poem should be read: The Techniques For Reading Poetry Aloud.

So tell me, what are your views regarding Poetry reading?  Do you have a distinct style of reading? What according to you is the significance of reading out loud? Would you like to share some tips with us so as to better understand the idea and concept? How many of you love to read out poetry and haven't tried it out just yet? I implore you, come and try with me. 

Prologue - Being A Woman In Times Like These

Among small wet pebbles that outline the fury of sun,
there lie fragments of one thousand and one sea glass
their once glossy surface flat and dark with some having tell-tale
signs of blood,
I unsheathe myself and embrace vulnerability,
as eyes, filled with shadows, thumb through me like a manuscript
my heart
a broken paragraph where despotism is tried and embedded
into the skin,
a series of violet tears spread
promising that a day will come when we will cross the bridge,
fall hard or breathe harder
it’s so simple when you put it like that,
unaware that silence is all that’s left in the end, we cannot unlearn
the fresh taste of trepidation
nor forget words that were whispered into the ear,
but rise
get up from lying because a bridge is unbiased,
it has no preference whatsoever
you have created this burning need for insurgence to prevail
in society,
touching me is the wind as feeling sets fire into my throat
you took me unwillingly
now watch as the sky rewrites our tale and hits just the right note of equity.


  1. Welcome to your first staff feature at PU, Sanaa! And thanks for musing on this topic – one dear to my heart. I am of the generation of Australian poets who, in the seventies and eighties, were active in 'taking poetry off the page'. In these days of slams, it is hard to imagine that back then poetry readings had been rare and sedate affairs!
    Of course, poetry began (long ago) as an oral tradition, when few people were literate. Even very long poems such as Beowulf were memorised and read aloud to large audiences. (Well, they didn't have TV or YouTube back then ... and what delicious irony that YouTube is now one place where spoken word poetry abounds.)
I tell people in my writing workshops to say the poem aloud to themselves before they regard it as finished, even if they are writing it for the page. Otherwise you might not find out such things as two consecutive 's' sounds (ending one word and beginning another) having an unfortunate hissing effect, or that your delicately melancholy piece has an incongruously galloping rhythm.
I think that, while any piece can be successfully read aloud, there are ways to write specifically for performance – perhaps with more emphatic rhythm, or some fun with alliteration, or repetition building to make a point more powerfully. It's also necessary to make a 'spoken word' poem more immediately accessible. The situation is not conducive to leisurely intellectual ponderings. Not that one can't have quite sophisticated word-play, but the audience must be able to grasp it on the spot.
Over the last 20 years or so, since I have been writing largely for my blog, and for online communities such as this, my poems have become more on-the-page. In the old days, I used to pride myself that they worked both ways, on the page and off. Now, in my locality, there is a sudden influx of spoken word poetry events, which is very exciting, and the old 'performance poet' in me is resurgent. I'm having to recover a way of writing that suits oral presentation at least as much as on-the-page reading, if not more.

    1. Wowwww!!!❤️ It's amazing that you were active and involved in "taking poetry off the page," Rosemary and that too in the seventies and eighties! You are officially my role model! I have only just recently begun reading out poems and am excited to learn that there are ways to write specifically for performance! I shall look further into the subject in the days to come.

      Here in my part of the world while Urdu Poetry is highly regarded and is subject to "mushahira," meaning a social gathering which takes place in the evening where poetry is read out loud (in the form of a contest) there is nothing even remotely similar when it comes to English poetry. In fact English poetry remains limited to textbooks and knowledge taught in schools and colleges.

      Which is why many of our youngsters are simply not interested as they aren't encouraged to take interest in the subject. This worries me and I hope with all my heart that the situation changes in future.

      Thank you so much for the warm welcome and for letting me be a part of Poets United! I look forward to many more musings.❤️

  2. Bravo on a wonderful Moonlight Musings, Sanaa. I once was terrified of even speaking in front of others, never mind performing my poetry. But over the years, I grew more comfortable with it, and now perform without any nervousness at all, likely because I live in a very arts-friendly and supportive village, surrounded by poets and artists. We all share what we do and appreciate each other's gifts. I used to read fast, to get it over with. But learned that the key is to slow right down, so people can absorb the words and the message. That works much better. As I dont hear well, I prefer reading a poem on the page as, when I listen to one being read, I rarely can hear much of it. Thanks for an interesting Moonlight Musings.

    1. A wonderful, wonderful piece of advice to hold onto and remember, Sherry!❤️ I agree one can not rush when it comes to reading poetry out loud.. as it hinders the process and is not half as effective as when one reads slowly. I have come to learn that in order to deliver a decent reading, one must bear control upon the nerves as it often happens that sometimes doubt and fear get in the way.

      Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and insight with us, and for your love and encouragement over the years Sherry, I am glad you enjoyed the feature ❤️

  3. Excellent Sanaa. I love the new feature! I've done a few readings of some of my works, but not many. I do believe the spoken word is very powerful.

    1. It most certainly is! Thank you so much for reading, Linda ❤️ I am glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Oh I absolutely love this poem and it is even more beautiful when read by you Sanaa. I have read some of my poems on a monthly bookbuzz. It is a small group of writers who read from their work. I am the only poet but I like it because there are only a few people and it is in a nice cafe

    1. That sounds wonderful, Marja!❤️ I am sure it must be a lot of fun interacting with a group of writers every month and that you read your poems beautifully. Thank you so much for your kind words, glad you enjoyed the feature!❤️

  5. Beautiful poem, Sanaa! And very nice Moonlight Musing. As far as reading poetry goes, most often if people online include a reading of a poem I won't listen to it - as I read faster than I listen; and sometimes I am impatient. And, if I don't understand something, I can easily look back! I have enjoyed in person poetry readings though and participated in them in the past. Somehow for me that is different than listening to poetry online. For a while I used to listen to a bit of slam poetry, but I have given that up too now. Anyway welcome to PU, and I will look forward to your features!

    1. Aww gosh!❤️ Thank you so much, Mary 😘 so glad you enjoyed it. I have only recently taken a liking to poetry reading and am enjoying the process of learning how it works. As Rosemary mentioned it's important to say the poem out loud even if we are merely writing it down on page, I find that I have always done that subconsciously without knowing that I was supposed to.. this is the one thing I love about Poets United .. the people .. the atmosphere and conducive learning environment where we are all encouraged to grow together. Thank you once again for the warm welcome!❤️ xo

  6. Welcome to PU Sanaa and what a beautiful post! There has to be some differences between a performing artist reciting a poem and when a poet reads out his or her poem. I have heard in record Tagore reading out his own poem. His voice, emphasis on a particular word, his pronunciation, everything was different from ours if we did that reading. A poet doesn't read his words but shows up the soul of the words. A good reading strikes an immediate bond with the audience. How wonderful is that! Shayari is best enjoyed in such an ambience. As for myself I prefer on page poetry. You can make a poem of your own and discover a whole new world absolutely different from the original writer of the poem.

    1. Awww gosh!❤️ Thank you so much, Sumana 😘 so glad you enjoyed it. I agree there is a marked difference between a performing artist reciting a poem and when a poet reads out his or her poem, I have been observing how to read a poem properly online in the past few days.. as I am completely new to the concept. How wonderful and keen your observation that "A poet doesn't read his words but shows up the soul of the words." I shall remember that while attempting to read a poem in future. Thank you once again for the warm welcome!❤️ xo

    2. I agree. Even the best actors can totally get it wrong when reading a poem, re intonations, emphasis, everything. (Except Benedict Cumberbatch reading Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale' – but he's not only a great actor, he's an extraordinary one.) I have known actors to ruin a poem without even realising they had done so. We need to follow Sanaa's example and read our own!

    3. Here is the line that resonates with me, Sumana: "A poet doesn't read his words but shows up the soul of the words." And that is true of Sanaa's reading as well. I agree that there are skills one can learn, but the poet embeds the SOUND scheme in their writing, in hopes that a reader will use that as part of the meaning. At least that's part of how I "taught" poetry, and still find it useful.

  7. You did very well. I'm afraid with my awful twang, people would think that they were watching an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. I have a good face for radio and an awful voice for anything.

    1. Thank you so much, Real Cie so glad you liked the feature ❤️

    2. Have you tried reading your poetry aloud?

  8. Sanaa, you have a sweet and tender voice. I enjoyed listening to your poem. I also enjoyed reading it.
    I began doing poetry readings a couple of years ago. It was surprisingly fun and different from simply allowing it to lay silently waiting for someone's eyes to read it. So I like reading poetry and recognize its challenges.
    I must confess though, that I enjoy reading a poem, or simply reading anything. I'm a visual person, things register best in my brain through my eyes.
    I so much enjoyed this post. Thank you.

    1. Awww gosh!❤️ Thank you so much, Myrna 😘 so glad you enjoyed it. I would love to hear you read poetry aloud someday!❤️

  9. I love listening to poetry and stories. And although I love reading poetry aloud, I'm not the most patient reader (and goodness knows this art needs patience and musicality). You know how fast I speak, so I always have to practice and practice and practice (slowing down and paying attention) before a reading.

    My favorite part about words being read aloud is that I get to see different things through the sounds. Some things are just for the page, others just for the tongue... I enjoy both, often at the same time.

    I think your feature is a sign for me. I need to follow my own advice and read more poetry and fiction, too, aloud. Maybe a week, or every other week... fingers crossed.

    1. Oh I would love to hear you read poetry and fiction and feel that you will do wonders at both!❤️ I agree about one requiring patience and musicality .. I am constantly working at both as I feel poetry reading would be useless without it.. there is also the matter of pronunciation .. different people tend to pronounce the same word in their own unique manner!

      I would have never had the courage to read poetry out loud had it not been for your love and encouragement, Magaly!❤️
      Here's hoping we embark upon more possibilities together.

  10. Sanaa, your voice has a delicate musicality that compliments the theme of your poem. I salute you for reaching beyond your comfort zone.

    I enjoy hearing spoken word, but I have never recorded my own voice. I hate the way my voice sounds, as most of us do.

    A decade ago, i did a few open mic nights that were well-received, and in some odd acoustical serendipity, I couldn't hear myself. But the last time I took the stage, I COULD hear myself, and I cut my poem short halfway through. Hearing how I sounded was disheartening.

    I envy and admire anyone who dabbled in spoken word, but I don't think it's for me to practice.

    1. Thank you so much for taking out time to read and comment, Bizza ❤️

  11. Thank you, Sanaa, for your wonderful article on poetry readings.
    First, i am more of a "words" reader. I like to see how the words are formed on the page, the indents, line breaks, spaces, even the choice of fonts. That is not to say I do not like the spoken word. Some poems are really meant to be read aloud, and it is a real delight to hear the words roll off the tongue. I have read once at a reading to an audience, though i find it unnerving as I started but find it quite enjoyable at the end, but I think performance poetry is not for me. :)

    1. Thank you so much, Lee San I agree reading poetry out loud can be a little unnerving at first .. but it gets better with practice and time. I am so glad you enjoyed this week's Moonlight Musing ❤️

  12. Hi Sanaa: I read your fascinating post on Saturday, but errands beckoned, and I thought to myself: I've got to clear some time and really take a long look and listen at the info here. Poetry readings are something that are not in my wheel-house and I know that I should make an effort.

    Of course, my Sunday has been equally hectic (barely found time to respond to the 'Pantry' comments) so here I am looking to return - and very much looking forward to returning - some time this week. Just wanted to say thanks. I'll by back.

    1. Definitely! Thanks for stopping by, Wendy ❤️


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