Thursday, September 24, 2009

Page V Stage - a humble opinion


Disclaimer: I'm no expert, so this is just pure personal opinion in response to a question posed by Emerging Writer in the comments earlier this week
STAGE POEMS
Poems that are written with strong emotion are probably my favourite type in general (I was creepily dubbed a feeler in the meyer's briggs pigeon hole assigner test - as opposed to a thinker, I think) but they tend to be good on stage, give the audience something to react to, gasps, or goofy smiles. Also a good rhythym, a fair bit of rhyme, a poem that really pleases the ears is gonna go down well live.
A poem is a song that just brings it's own music
- (someone else said that before me, I've no idea who, but i thought it was very smart). Repetition can work great in a live poem, because it makes it easier for the listener to get all the words, whereas on the page it might just be irritating.
Really really short poems are difficult to make work on the stage because the listener is only relaxing into it, and I think sometimes feels cheated if it ends too soon. Continuing the music analogy - it'd be like REM coming out and singing "When your day is long, and the night" and then expecting a round of applause for just that, the audience do need that tiny bit of time to get used to the new poem. Back to the personal aspect; Poems addressed directly to the listener, or very candid poems I find most touching in that situation. Accessibility - poems that anyone can identify with. Special effects - You can only use special effects with live poems - otherwise known as gimmicks, altho you could describe the effect on paper and it would probably be easy for the reader to imagine. Context - live performing does give you the chance to introduce your poems, for some reason there's rarely an introduction on written poems, live work can be more personallised for that reason, and therefore if you have a nice intro for a poem it can work all the harder live for you. I think Slam Poems perhaps belong in another seperate category again in that they are more polemic, alot of them angry, and often are very very.... very... long. They are emotional, and addressed directly to the crowd, so often work really well, but I think perhaps, are written from a different kind of urge to the normal poem.
Page poems are the ones that people are going to love to look at, listen to in their own heads. Poems that they'll want to pore over. Poems that you've worked really hard on in terms of shape, agonising decisions about line length, clever use of punctuation - all of these will be lost on stage. Poems that you really need to work at the figure out - ie lack of accessibility - will possibly struggle live as well, unless it has other ingredients out of the above - ie rhythm etc Of course there are poems that fit into both categories, all rounders. And there are page poets that will read and people will love it, just because they love that poet, and know their stuff. I really enjoyed a moment in Brendan Kennelly's reading at the writer's fest this year when the crowd starting murmuring in happy anticipation as he announced a favourite poem that he was going to read. I wasn't that familiar with the stuff, and the poems didn't touch me that much live, but I really enjoyed the reaction of his hard core fans who were all in heaven.

Thus ends my spiel on poetry for another day...
BY THE WAY: NEWSFLASH: Dublin Dave has done it again - Picking up the top prize at the Over the Edge awards ceremony in Galway, this on top of winning the silver at Sean O'Faolain last weekend, the overall Hennessey award this year, a few Johnny swift placements, a commendation in the Yeats comp, etc etc. Well done David! A breathtaking year, and still 3 months left to go in it!!

9 comments:

Uiscebot said...

Great post. Couldn't agree more. That's amazing news about David Mohan aka Dublin Dave. He's some talent that's for sure.

Niamh B said...

Thanks Uisce, I know, it's mad about David alright, he's just flying it!

Matt Bolton said...

Great post and I think you are right, it is great news about Dave is on poetic fire!

Rachel Fox said...

I have had some good results with reading very short poems on stage. And have heard others do the same. Depends on the short poem I suppose.
x

Niamh B said...

Thanks Matt - it's true - it's almost like he's doing it on purpose...
Thanks Rachel - actually glad that you say that, because I can think of at least one really brilliant short poem that I heard recited. Think I was just reflecting my own experience there, where my shortest poem ended one night with a kind of dissappointed anticlimactic mumble (of course accompanied by polite applause) from the onlookers, so I think you're right on that one.

Dublin Dave said...

Thanks Niamh - you're very kind.

Niamh B said...

No trouble at all Dave - we're very proud of you!!

Dick said...

A fine primer for anyone taking a poem from page to stage. Of course, all of this good guidance is lost if what's on the page reaches the audience via the black mass incantatory drone that so many poets still use as a sort of default style.

Niamh B said...

Thanks Dick, I know! See the previous day's post for where I think people possibly go most wrong including that whole "sounding incredibly bored with your own poems" kinda thing!