"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Friday, March 31, 2006

On Poetry Readings

* A poetry reading need not be solemn.

* A poetry reading, in fact, should not be solemn, unless someone has just died, in which case a moment of two of silence should suffice.

* Poets are complex individuals, apart from their work. However, the poet's self often figures into his work. Sometimes it does not. The self (the complex self) may manifest in performance more than in the words on the page. This is nothing to be ashamed of.

* A poet's performance should be at least as interesting as that of an accomplished voice actor, or a regular on a show such as "ER." Poets should try to be at least as engaging as George Clooney or Yeardly Smith.

* Poetry and Comedy are different genres. However, this does not mean that humor has no place in a poetry reading.

* Poetry, no matter how hard one may try, can not be debased.

* Poetry, no matter what you may think, can not be disrespected.

* Whatever deserves to be in the poem will be in the poem. If an ambulance drives by, why not let it into the poem? If harmonious grunting (e.g. Van Morrison, particularly on Veedon Fleece) helps propel a poem, grunt away.

* More poets should be like Bob Pollard. That is, they should enjoy what they are doing.

* Comedy is not the opposite of solemnity.

* One error often committed by novice poets and readers as well as experienced poets and readers is one of self-perception. If you think you are doing Very Important Work you probably are not.

* More to come. (Followed by an imaginary golf swing.)


Ginger Heatter said...

AMEN! I mean, even in a Catholic church one's allowed to say, "Amen" and sing a little. The silence and joyless solemnity of academic-type poetry readings makes absolutely no sense to me. If ever I get to the point where people want to come out to hear me read, I think I'm going to distribute noisemakers at the door.

Melissa Jones Fiori said...

I have tried to be as engaging as George Clooney but so far it's not working for me.

Justin Evans said...

You really should attend a reading by Dave Lee if you ever get a chance. He has always said: "Poetry is a participation sport." He means it, too.

Josh_Hanson said...

And then does he do a Karate high-kick?

Charles said...

Tony, can you explain what you mean about the Very Important Work comment? Do you mean that believing your work is important is an error in judgment, or do you think that poets who think they THEMSELVES are important because of their work are misguided?

Tony said...


I think I mean both.


Tony said...

Last year at AWP, I attended a panel/reading on "experimental fiction."

One of the readers, Michael Martone, began his talk by telling everyone to turn on their cell phones. He was serious.

Anonymous said...


Tacos are not the opposite of falling down.

You are making a spectacle of yourself.