Read Between the Lines
We know why poetry is written, but why is it performed? When we read poems, we assume the position of author in our minds. We take the words on paper and relate them to our own experiences. Everything we read is filtered through our perception of life. Readers fill in the blanks and read between the lines constantly. We may add perspective that the author did not have when they wrote the poem. We may also put emphasis on certain words that were not written to be the main focus. Poets will often write with ambiguity so the reader may interpret the work in their own way.
Performed poetry takes the guessing out, which can be eye-opening. When poetry is only filtered through our emotions and experiences, then we may be fairly narrow-minded, whether we realize it or not.
Listening to spoken word or slam gives the audience an opportunity to see poetry through the lens of someone with a different background than their own. This has the ability to create and increase empathy amongst poets and their audience. When on stage, a poet can tear up at certain sections, their voice will break when saying specific words, or their hands will shake when nearing the end of their piece. These are physical reactions to the original work that they’ve produced. This gives insight into their lives leading up to and resulting from the creation of that poem.
Attend a poetry open mic, if not to share your work then to listen to others’. I believe to absorb poetry in both forms is to treat yourself to the artist's full gift.
Photo: Reese Beaux
Cover photo: Jon Tyson