Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 8 comments
Spoken word poetry is meant to be experienced as a performance, heard rather than read silently. The piece I'm sharing below is a segment from a longer TED talk by spoken word poet Sarah Kay. More of her work can be found on YouTube.

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Absorbing a spoken word poem is a very different experience from reading it on a page. If you miss a turn of phrase, it's simply gone. You can't easily "reread" and consider your interpretation. You have to take it in, interpret on the fly, absorb what you can. I think that being a listener rather than a reader also takes away some of your sense of controlling the text. You're instead a passive recipient. You can't work for the understanding, you have to let it come to you.

What strikes you about Kay's poem? In what ways do you find it better and worse than reading a poem silently?

8 comments:

  1. I think the distinction might be an artificial one. A lot of poets I've run into insist that all poetry is intended for reading aloud. Although that might be just an attempt to get free advertising in the middle of libraries from passing readers.

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    1. I'm surprised any poet would assert that. Plenty of poetic forms rely very heavily on the visual. Look at my entry for C, for example. Ferlinghetti's poem loses something without the precariously balanced lines. Yesterday's acrostic is also based on a visual pattern that would be lost when read aloud, and my upcoming entry for U is a concrete or shape poem, in which the visual arrangement is core.

      For me, this kind of diversity is what makes poetry so exciting. It can be more aural or more visual.

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  2. Interesting discussion, esp since my daughter's name is Kay!

    Thanks.

    Beth
    www.BethLapinsAtoZblog.wordpress.com

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    1. And Sarah Kay was talking about daughters! :-)

      Thanks for visiting!

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  3. I think some poetry can be quite stunning when heard rather than read, but I agree that I think it's important to be able to read poetry, at least some of the time. It's like reading a book versus listening to an audiobook...they both can be wonderful ways to experience a story, but listening is different because it takes away some of your ability to interpret phrases and flow yourself, which can in turn change your whole perception of the piece.

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    1. I think it's harder to grasp the layers of a piece when it's read aloud. My hubby read the entire Harry Potter series aloud to me, and when I did the same for my daughter, I noticed all kinds of details I'd missed when listening instead of reading.

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  4. I have to agree that some poetry is meant to be performed not read. A couple of years ago I experienced Jean Binta Breeze (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_%22Binta%22_Breeze) at the Manchester Literature Festival, and it was absolutely spellbinding, but her own voice, embellishment and improvisation was so essential to the poetry that you could not imagine it being the same thing to read the words from a book. at some points in the performance she would be talking and reminiscing about something and then you would suddenly realise that she had moved seamlessly into another poem.
    Personally I think written and performed poetry can be verging on different art forms.

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    1. Absolutely there are some differences between poems meant to be read versus spoken word poetry. The former relies quite a bit on the reader's ability to reread if necessary to decode it. The latter has more drama elements and must be comprehensible from the get-go.

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