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Why I Don’t Read

Well, clearly the title is a little silly, of course I read. I read vast amounts of other people’s work both poetry and prose but I do not read my poetry aloud. Pretty much ever.

One of the thing I am asked a lot when I tell people that I’m a poet is when I am doing readings or where I like to read my poetry. Never. Nowhere.

I have been to a few poetry readings that have been wonderful but I have also been to some that haven’t been to my taste at all – I’ve loved the poetry when I read it myself but the performance of it took away something. I honestly don’t believe that all poetry can be put into one category and I don’t write poetry to be read.

I spend a lot of time on constructing the shape of my poems with sentences and line-breaks working together to create a rhythm and visual style. Occasionally I have written poems that are meant to be read aloud – when I entered the BBC Proms Poetry competition I knew that it needed to be suitable for a reading so I did that deliberately to work as a spoken piece as well. I also used part of that poem last week at the Wigtown Book Festival when the SPL were recording snippets of poetry for a podcast.

People seem to think that poetry can only be one thing – which is complete rubbish. It can be read, spoken, signed and sung. The fewer rules the better the outcome, the more we can create. If you want your poetry to be read aloud then it is important to make sure it sounds as good as, if not better than, it looks. If you are not then it doesn’t matter, to me at least!

Poetry is important to me. It is my favourite way of expressing myself and it is my favourite way to find other views of the world. But…I like to do it inside my own head. One of the most wonderful things about poetry is the vastness of options – you can choose and explore. And I choose to read alone, to get lost in it, to put my spin on the words that someone else has crafted. It’s not the only way, I wouldn’t want it to be, but it’s my way.

So in short – if you see a poem of mine on your travels then it is meant to be heard inside your head. Because I love inside your head – I really do.


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