#writing #performance

More Things Not to do at a Literary Reading

Since my earlier post, Ten Things Not to do at a Literary Reading, I found additions to the list.

Don’t Use a Contrived Voice

It’s bad enough if the writing uses cliché. Poetry has too much of that already. Worse, poetry gets presented in worn-out, stereotypical ways that can ruin the authenticity of the work.

For example, a recent article on CityArts commands “Stop Using Poet Voice”. If you’ve ever been to a poetry reading, surely you’ve heard “poet voice” before, which the article describes as “a precious, lilting cadence, to end every other line on a down-note, and to introduce, pauses, within sentences, where pauses, need not go.”

Academic poets aren’t alone in this. See also: slam poetry voice and the risk that “slam poetry all sounds the same.”

These pre-fabricated voices do have their uses, like their cousins the announcer voice, the meteorologist voice, the fine print voice, and so on, but they get in the way when used incorrectly. (update: TikTok robot voice is a thing now.)

Have you ever listened to someone reading aloud, and you can tell they’re reading aloud by the way they’re speaking? It’s a little slower, more deliberate, and those are good qualities, but it’s also expressionless, monotone, because the reader is unsure where the words will take them. Now, would you want to listen to an audiobook, or a performance in that tone of voice? No. “Reading Voice” is the worst of them all.

When performing a literary work aloud, speak in the tone of voice you use naturally, and let the work use the pace that’s written down for it. Trust me, your audience will notice, and they might listen more attentively. Even if you are reading from the page, it shouldn’t sound that way.

It isn’t just the performance of the words. Sometimes it’s the words themselves. For a satirical introduction to some “poetical buzzwords” try the list entitled “Words to make your Poetry Legit