Explaining Silence

I don’t read my poetry aloud. I don’t write poetry that is meant to be read aloud.

The idea of standing up and reading poems, listening to poems being read is not how I enjoy connecting either to a reader or to a poet. I like how forceful reading a poem can be when it comes directly from the page. You cannot help but engage more closely with the words. It also encourages each person to impress their own emotions and experience on the poem and not simply take my definitions as I hand them out.

My intention in writing the poem is far less important than the reader’s interpretation.

I have been to a few poetry readings that have been wonderful but I have also been to some that haven’t been to my taste at all – I’ve loved the poetry when I read it myself but the performance of it took away something. I love reciting certain poems but they are generally older pieces, ones that were written closer to a time when words were primarily shared orally not on a page or screen. I love poetry that is meant to be read aloud and I really love talking about poetry with people, either in a group or one on one.

I spend a lot of time on constructing the shape of my poems with sentences and line-breaks working together to create a rhythm and visual style. Occasionally I have written poems that are meant to be read aloud – when I entered the BBC Proms Poetry competition I knew that it needed to be suitable for a reading so I did that deliberately to work as a spoken piece as well. I also used part of that poem at the Wigtown Book Festival when the SPL were recording snippets of poetry for a podcast.

People seem to think that poetry can only be one thing – which is complete rubbish. It can be read, spoken, signed and sung. The fewer rules the better the outcome, the more we can create. If you want your poetry to be read aloud then it is important to make sure it sounds as good as, if not better than, it looks. If you are writing words to be read then they need to work visually and sound good when read silently by the mind.

Poetry is important to me. It is my favourite way of expressing myself and it is my favourite way to find other views of the world. But…I like to do it inside my own head. One of the most wonderful things about poetry is the vastness of options – you can choose and explore. And I choose to read alone, to get lost in it, to put my spin on the words that someone else has crafted. It’s not the only way, I wouldn’t want it to be, but it’s my way.

So in short – if you see a poem of mine on your travels then it is meant to be heard inside your head. Because I love inside your head – I really do.

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