Why We Perform Words

Poetry, Rambles

I went to see Peter Arnott’s scratch of Talent Night in the Fly Room (which was an open-hearted blast, by the way, and I’m really looking forward to the finished thing), and something he said at the beginning struck me:

Working with actors is like doing it in laboratory conditions — it tests writing in a real-world way. People say “That’s not funny” and you say . . . “You’re right. It isn’t.”

That’s pretty much how I feel about performing poetry. Performing a poem to an audience is an essential part of the creative process for me. How can I know the words are right until the audience has reacted to them? Why on earth would I trade this for the trickle of response from readers when a piece is publishd? Why would I ask for critical commentary from trusted readers and not from trusted listeners? Why would you?

And if you don’t think your poem is auditory, why do you use alliteration, assonance, rhythm, rhyme? Why do your poems have shape? Do you really not sound them at least in your mind? Do you not roll the words around your mouth? So why don’t you perform them? It will test them in a real-world way.

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