There’s no way around it – poetry can be tough to master. Whether you’re reading a poem to yourself or preparing to recite a poem in front of an audience, understanding a poem takes dedication, a wide knowledge of poetic devices, and an appreciation for imagery, rhythm, and sometimes rhymes.
Below are some tips to help improve your poetry reading and speaking skills, although the list is by no means comprehensive. If you’re ever in search of more tips and tricks, why not reach out to a Superprof poetry tutor today to see how they can help you?
There are a few tips that coming in handy when learning how to read poetry. (Image: CC0 1.0, George Hodan, Public Domain Pictures)
Before reciting a poem, you should have an intrinsic understanding of that poem. This comes through reading the work and familiarising yourself with every literary aspect of it.
Poems can sometimes be shunned or labelled too difficult by virtue of the fact that their meaning can be hard to decipher. While some poems are not as easy as others to understand, by adopting particular techniques and approaches to a poetry reading, you’ll find that you’ll quickly develop your poetry analysis skills, which will help you get to a heart of a poem quicker.
When you’ve selected a poem that you might like to recite, then it may be worthwhile to follow a few steps before diving in and reading the poem. Whether that poem is by a Poet Laureate, is a piece of contemporary poetry, a haiku, stanza, or ballad, these steps should help unlock the meaning behind the prose.
Firstly, skim through the poem, and try to identify the following:
Once you’ve completed the above, then dive in and read through the poem. Don’t be put off if you struggle with the poem on your first reading – reading poetry is a skill that needs to be developed, and not all poems have a clear meaning that is easy to decipher. On a first read, the most important thing is to familiarise yourself with the work, try to get a sense of the poem’s meaning if possible, and get a feel of how the poem flows.
After your initial reading, keep going back through the poem and try to unlock the poem’s secrets gradually. Consider the poetic devices that have been used and what meaning and imagery they help to convey.
Also think about the voice of the poem, and who the poem may have been written for, as this may give some further indication of the poem’s meaning. Context is also important in poetry – was the poem written at a particular point during the poet’s life, perhaps during a time of great happiness or struggle? Or was a significant world event taking place at the time the poem was written?
Finally, make sure to read the poem aloud – even if you only speak quietly to yourself at first. A poem’s true impact is often revealed when spoken, and it’s great practice for when the time comes to recite poetry in front of an audience.
Confidence is key when reciting a poem. (Image: CC0 1.0, geralt, Pixabay)
Reciting a poem in front of an audience can seem like a daunting task – all eyes are on you to bring a poem to life, and understandably, you can feel a lot of pressure to put on a good performance.
However, there are a few techniques you can employ to make sure you get the most out of your performance.
It sounds like obvious advice, but having your breathing under control can really make a difference when reciting poetry. Often, in any form of public speaking, people are nervous and so speak faster than they usually do. This, understandably, doesn’t make for a good poetry recital, as you want people to hear you enunciate and convey the meaning of the poem’s words, as they were meant to be spoken aloud.
Just try and take your time when reciting, and make sure to put emphasis on any natural brakes in the poem – for example, when a full stop appears.
Another key pointer for any public speaking event is to project confidence while you’re speaking. Having good posture, minimal fidgeting, and speaking clearly and loudly enough for the room to hear you are all great ways to help engage the audience and leave them wanting to hear what you have to say.
Your job during a recital is to project the essence of the poem to your audience. To do this, you’ll need to know your poem word for word, and ideally, have an indication of how the poet would have liked their work to be performed. Is the poem frantic, desperate, urgent, or calm, paced, and quiet? By reading and understanding your poem, you’ll have a better chance of conveying its true meaning to the audience.
Other useful tips for poetry recital include:
Crucially, remember that reciting poetry can be a daunting experience, but with practice and experience, it should get easier. Every poem is different as well, which means that every recital will take on its own characteristics. This makes poetry recital a really interesting art form and one that many enjoy.
If you’d like to get any more tips on how to improve your poetry recitals or want further advice about how best to read and interpret poems, you can also look at hiring an English tutor with a poetry background. Superprof, for example, has a range of tutors with experience in poetry tuition that would be happy to hear a run-through of an upcoming recital and provide feedback, or provide suggestions of which poems you might enjoy studying.
Superprof tutors offer a range of tuition formats, from online classes to a one to one session or group workshops, so it’s a case of searching for a tutor that’s right for you.
Performance poetry is becoming more and more popular. (Image: CC0 1.0, Modman, Pixabay)
Performance, also known as spoken word, poetry has, in one form or another, been around for hundreds of years, but recently it has seen a resurgence in popularity.
Unlike traditional poetry recitals, where the speaker recites words of a written poetic work, performance poetry focuses on the spoken word and the art of performance.
In this way, it harks back to the initial roots of poetry, where poets would rely on the spoken word to tell tales that could then be shared with others and passed down through word of mouth.
If you’re looking at getting into performance poetry, or want to hone your craft, then there are plenty of avenues where you can get experience, including an increasing number of open mic nights that cater to performance poetry. Below are also some tips on how to get the most out of your performance.
Of course, there are other tips out there that can help improve your performance. For example, watching other performance or slam poets is a great way to see how others practice their craft and could give you some inspiration for your next work.
If you’d like to find out more about performance poetry, or poetry in general, then you can also speak to a Superprof tutor today to learn more about common poetic techniques and devices that help poems to shine. If you type in your postcode and the subject you’d like to learn more about, Superprof can match you with a range of tutors in your local area, as well as tutors that are happy to offer remote tutoring.