I attended half of an on-line multi-poet poetry reading the other day – and it was like being machine-gunned with poetry. “Here’s a poem; here’s a poem; here’s a poem; here’s a poem” … a rat-a-tat-tat of quick-fire delivery, one piece after the other. A session for the readers themselves, not really for the listeners. After fifteen minutes I was wounded, and after thirty riddled with bullet holes.
I came to have no idea whether what I was listening to had any merit; each piece blurred one into the next. It almost became noise. I have no idea how people felt they were able to make meaningful comment in the chat window… Maybe they didn’t…
Poetry doesn’t work like that. It needs to be chewed a little and not swallowed whole; the ‘consumer’ needs time and space (even just a little!) to take in what they have heard, to decipher, assess, appreciate. Otherwise, indigestion.
Given I run my own monthly event, this subject is close to my heart – especially as I fear my last session may have been in danger of at least loading the machine gun, if not firing it. So, as much as anything else, the event was a salutary reminder…
And attending half the session? I simply couldn’t take any more, so bailed out part-way through. The remaining poets may have been brilliant, but as a whole I don’t think the event did any of them any favours…
4 thoughts on “Poetry: Chew don’t Swallow…”
I agree. I think it was Peter Samson who suggested that poets read their poems twice and also give the audience a copy of the poems so they can read along while they’re listening. I like that idea though have never been to a reading where poets do that. I might try it one day!
I’ve never seen that done – but have thought about it. In the readings I run I always share the poems on screen as they are being read; it makes such a difference. We have to give the readers/listeners a chance!
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So very true Ian. Plus I like the way you’ve been showing the text of poems on screen during the readings – it really helps the digestion!