One of the most enjoyable things about doing poetry readings, I’ve found, is the preparation. Admittedly, you can feel a bit of a fool walking round the house reciting your own work aloud, but it’s essential if you’re to time things right on the day. I don’t actually practice the intros or between-poem banter, such as it is, but I do make a few rough notes with each poem just in case I want to lead into it with a few words.
The best bit, though, is deciding on your ‘set-list’, because it means you can indulge any lingering rock star fantasies. You don’t have to go as far as taping a sheet of titles, hastily scribbled in magic marker, on the stage on the big day, but you know what I mean.
Anyway, last night I was going through just this process, trying to come up with the right blend of poems for the Poetry Nottingham launch next week. I’d just about got the timing right when it struck me that it was all a bit downbeat, so I’ll have to do some tinkering over the next few days to ensure a bit of light and shade.
What this teaches you, though, is just how important it is to read your own work aloud. Often. You discover weaknesses in your poems that just weren’t obvious on the page, and occasionally you realise that poem you cast aside after a couple of rejections actually has something going for it, maybe with a little fine tuning.