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lessons from early attempts at memorization

November 20, 2009

I was inspired to begin memorizing poems after attending a Dorianne Laux workshop at Tin House. I have made little progress.

However, one thing I have been working on this fall is recording myself reading other people’s poems. I took the time recently to add them to my I-tunes library and put them on my I-pod. I listened yesterday for the first time, and I noticed right away two big mistakes I’m making in reading out loud.

First, my voice trails off at the end of the line or when it nears a normal pause in the syntax of the poem. Sometimes it’s dramatic enough to make the words inaudible. And second, I’m not enunciating as well as I thought I was. This is one of those strange public speaking things we forget when we’re reading poetry: it feels awkward to enunciate but it doesn’t look as strange as it feels. And it’s so helpful to the audience.

Interesting. I bet I’ve been making the same mistakes at open mics reading my own work.

Even though I don’t have anything memorized yet, I’m working on it. I’m going to tackle one line at a time. Get it down. Add the next line. And in the process, I’m pleased to have learned an early lesson about reading out loud, and I’m reminded how wonderful it is to hear poetry around me more often.

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One Comment
  1. November 20, 2009 5:49 pm

    How wonderful! I don’t have the nerve to listen to myself reciting 🙂

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