How to Read Poetry Aloud
“A poem will live or die depending on how it is read.”
~Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate
Before reading poetry aloud:
- Get to know the poem. Read it to yourself a few times.
- Look up unfamiliar terms.
- Practice hard-to-pronounce words so you won’t stumble over them.
- Notice if the poem is from the perspective of a character. If so, choose a voice that will convey that character: high or low, young or old, gruff or kind, serious or silly, etc.
When reading aloud:
- Relax. Most poetry is conversational. No need, usually, to be formal.
- Read slowly and clearly. Sometimes a humorous poem might need more speed but even then make sure to enunciate and don’t rush the punchline.
- Don’t give every word the same emphasis. Provide a little extra “punch” here and there.
- Only pause when there is punctuation, as you would when reading prose.
- Read with emotion but don’t overdo it. Let the words do the work.