Shoot. If I were faced with a choice with hearing Kathryn Stripling Byer or myself speak, I sure wouldn't choose me!
However, I really learned a lot finding and reading the following articles:
- Mendy Knott's 9 steps for practicing for a reading. A very empowering read. (She's supposed to be posting it soon!)
- Poetry Readings: A Field Guide by Naeem Murr. A flippant, hilarious read that touches on the many flawed readings.
- 10 Steps to Giving a Reading by Martyn Crucefix
- How to Give a Good Reading of Your Poems by Gary Mex Glazner
- Performing Poetry
- Stand Up or Sit Down: Performance Tips for Reading Your Work by Meredith Broussard (this article is not available on-line, but can be found in Poets & Writers 2006: volume 34 issue 6)
- Also not available is the talk given by Aritha Van Herk at AWP this March in Atlanta-- which was excellent!
- Performing Poetry: A Study Guide for Teachers by Kathy Norris. This is an excellent practicing tool to rehearse variation in tone, inflection, emphasis etc.
Probably the most helpful thing I learned from all the reading and preparing is the audience wants you to do well. Why? Well, for lots of reasons: they want to enjoy themselves, they want to feel like they've made a good decision to come hear you, they want to have a one-of-a-kind never-to-be-repeated experience. They don't want to be nervous for you nor do they want to hear you diminish yourself or apologize for anything.
As an extension of that, the audience wants to know they are important to you--that you care about them. And if you can make them feel that way, you buy that much more time, they cut you that much more slack, they'll listen that much longer... You can show this by something you say at the beginning, or by really taking the audience and the occasion/location (specifically) into consideration when you choose your poems/prose and plan the duration of the reading.
I could go on and on (since I had a two-hour presentation planned). But I know the average attention span for an on-line surfer is 8 seconds... and I've exceeded that already!