I found this the other day at PoetCasting:
Stage and Page Poetry now broadly falls into two categories. Some poets consider themselves performance poets, and their work is performed exclusively for the stage. They might read at open mike nights, poetry slams and other live events. Other poets write to be read, appearing in the pages of poetry journals, magazines, anthologies and collections.
There has long been this duality in poetry. PoetCasting aims to bring together poets from all backgrounds to share the medium of the internet. Here poets can be read and heard in one place.
On the heels of that, this observation from Linebreak's Johnathon Williams in his recent Voice Alpha interview:
What are your thoughts in general on the current state of the art of reading poetry aloud for an audience?
I think there’s a fascinating split between the academic side of poetry – those of us who came through MFA programs, and tend to focus on poetry as a written art – and the slam side. It’s fascinating because, in general, the academic folks tend to be better writers, in that they tend to be better read and more aware of the tradition they’re working in. But slam poets, by and large, are better performers. And by “better performers”, I mean they’re less likely to bore the audience to tears.
We’ve all been to poetry readings on the academic side where the reader could’ve been replaced by a robot and hardly anyone would’ve noticed. Sometimes I think that refusal to perform is a deliberate effort by some academic poets to separate themselves from slam poets. But it’s also true that many writers are introverts who are uncomfortable with the entire idea of performing. To those people, I’d simply remind them that, in the absence of performance, there’s absolutely no reason for public poetry readings to exist. Everyone in the audience is perfectly capable of reading the work by themselves. The only reason to invite the author to read it aloud is to hear it interpreted in a new way, in a voice other than the listener’s — in other words, to hear it performed.
We've skirted this topic at Voice Alpha. Check out the comments thread on this post, which in several places seems verily to bristle with barely-concealed hostility against the 'stage' side of the house.
I think Johnathon makes an excellent point - "in the absence of performance, there’s absolutely no reason for public poetry readings to exist."
(And let's be very clear about what constitutes performance - memorizing and delivering dramatic monologues on stage à la slam is performance; but so is active, engaged, skilful reading poetry aloud, from the page, for an audience.)
And so we are back at the point with which I started this week lamenting: The poetry community - and of course, I really mean the 'page' poetry community - in general just doesn't seem to care about performing. There are exceptions of course, but overall there seems to be a weird assumption at play among page poets concerning reading poetry aloud for an audience. That is, we know we need to be taught and to learn how to write poetry, but somehow we believe that once we have that part down, never fear, the reading-aloud skills magically follow, because they are somehow part of the package, miraculously absorbed with the writing skills. (As one commenter said in the comments thread here: "I don’t know why writers believe that all that effort expended on the page will carry them in front of a live audience, but too many of them do.")
Is this dismissive attitude of many 'page' poets toward the art of reading poetry aloud - toward the concept of reading-as-performance - really no more than a form of snobbery? The more I think about it, the more I think may be. Which - given that snobbery impoverishes and diminishes only the snob - is really too bad for us page poets.
To end on a brighter note, though, there are definitely some wonderfully well-rounded page/stage poets out there, who completely get both the page thing and the stage thing.
Just a couple of quick examples - check out this this amazing Carolyn Forche recitation and then this wonderful reading by her, in which she is straight reading and doesn't even look up from the page to make eye contact with the audience.
That's what I want to be when I grow up - a page/stage poet...
What are your thoughts on the page/stage duality?
Poetry out loud: Singing poetry