Thursday, March 14, 2013
Should We Just Read or Perform our Poetry?
Yesterday, after the monthly Coffee with the Poets event, I had a conversation with poet Glenda Beall and her sister, Gay, about the lack of “performance poetry” in our neck of the woods. This phrase is not to be confused with “poetry slam” or “rap poetry,” though it may be similar, depending on the one dramatizing the poetry.
In a nutshell, performance means dramatization in which an actor or reciter delivers (not reads) the verse as if on a stage. In fact, sometimes the presentation is physically on stage. In many larger cities, you will find poetry troupes that routinely put on poetry plays in theaters or other suitable venues. Very often, they will even build stage settings and props.
I know the very mention of acting gives stage fright to some folks who have never done anything like this before. It’s true that not everyone is suited to acting out poetry. It’s also my observation that most poets are not very good at reading their own poems, much less dramatizing them. I can name some poets in our area who might pull it off. I have seen Karen Holmes, for example, perform some of her poems quite well. Years ago I also participated in performance poetry.
Simply having good poetry does not good drama make. Some words just don’t work when staged. Usually the best poems for this purpose are dramatic monologues or narratives. However, a good voice can bring out the drama in other poems we might have considered unsuitable for staged presentation. I would find it interesting to see what our area poets select for performance.
One of the main requirements for performing is energy, which is usually the domain of youth. Some of us old timers can still cut the mustard, though I don’t think I’m one of them anymore. My mouth still works okay, though. Older age does not shut down all the possibilities. Many arts organizations actually pair drama departments or theater companies with poets. In this case the actors perform the poetry, and the poet basically takes an appreciative seat in the audience, perhaps taking a bow at the end along with the actors. I’d like to see this scenario play out in our area. When good poetry is coupled with good dramatic presentation, the results can be magical.
In this article, I’m just trying to identify a need, not to make a proposal. Nevertheless, if anyone has any ideas on resources to make this happen or would like to see the idea pursued further, I would certainly volunteer to help out. I suppose I will know the interest level by the number of comments to this post!