Poetry Reading Pro Tips

Poetry Reading Pro Tips

I went to hear my friend Wendy Willis read some poetry Monday night and it was such a good experience. Mostly because of the fact that a) her poems are BEAUTIFUL b) I’d read the poems before, which were almost all from her collection Blood Sisters of the Republic.

But then I did a genius move, which was to bring the book with, and read along quietly while Wendy spoke the poems, too.

This helped on many levels.

One, since I have notoriously poor hearing (mumblers, you are on notice), it helped me gain more clarity for individual words.

Two, I could ‘see’ the internal rhyme while ‘hearing’ it. I dunno if quotes are appropriate there. But you know what I mean.

Three, now when I read the poems, I have the memory of Wendy’s voice guiding me through them.

Anyway, I know this won’t always be possible, but as there are many faculty poetry readings at my grad school residency, it’s a trick I might try again.

Also, the way Wendy set up her poems with anecdotes and context? That is my favorite. I love that. So much more juicy than going straight, un-qualified and cold into a poem.

Also having the reading in the cozy and close-knit space at SubText was also a big plus.

Wendy is also reading tonight at the Blue Ox Coffee Company in Minneapolis at 7 pm. I will share my book with you if you want to get in on my highly sneaky and excellent tip…


  • Carrie on Nov 28, 2012 Reply

    It’s a gorgeous book. And that’s a great way to make a poetry reading more connected. Even if you don’t have poor hearing, as I do.

  • Ela on Nov 28, 2012 Reply

    I’m so jealous you got to read and hear Wendy! We’re reading her book for our poetry group (two RWW alums and me in a group of six)this month.

    Peggy Shumaker is another who does the contextualizing beautifully. There was a period when she would pass out copies of her book prior to a reading, read a few she’d picked out herself, and then ask for audience requests. Totally awesome.

Leave Reply