Reading out loud is an excellent exercise to strengthen mental and physical coordination, as well as improve our ability to speak with confidence. The type of literature that we choose to read aloud can reap even greater benefits. Poetry over, say, cereal boxes, can turn a practical exercise into an indelible moment.
The practice of reading aloud improves verbal articulation, pronunciation, flow and confidence in how we introduce ourselves to people, groups or deliver a presentation. We might be surprised at how awkward reading aloud can be compared to reading silently, if we don’t do it often. The eyes, the mouth, the vocal chords are all going at the same time that our minds are interpreting the language, meaning and emotion of these funny marks that make up our written language. Quality presentation, personal or professional, requires quality physical and intellectual control. In addition, when we read a poem, like we were the poet who wrote it, we also exercise our range of emotion and empathy.
There is a little acting involved in reading poetry aloud. For those of us who aren’t actors, the fun is there if we can surmount any fear of being foolish. Foolishness has a magical way of breaking down shyness, stress and insecurity and thereby providing us with an opportunity to shine as much as we can or want.
One of the coolest poems to read out loud is, Invictus, by William Ernest Henley. But only as cool as we can be convincing.
Another feel-gooder (I know that’s not a real word) is by Sarah Williams, from the poem, The Old Astronomer to His Pupil:
Often when I meet people who don’t like poetry, they often tell me that it’s because they just don’t/can’t ‘get’ it. Aside from all the practical and personal benefits from reading poetry aloud, to me, the most important benefit is that it negates the reader’s need to ever ‘get’ a poem again. If we read a poem like we were the person who wrote it, there would be nothing to get outside of ourselves and this old art-form can take on new life through us. I would love to hear and see more people embrace poetry this way.
In lieu of a poetry video created by me, I have copied below several Youtube links to excellent dramatic readings to great poetry. There aren’t any grim readers in this list:
- François Villon’s “Ballade pour France” read LIVE by OÁC
- Nike soccer commercial. Pablo Neruda poem
- La Belle Dame Sans Merci read by Ben Whishaw
- Bill Murray Reads Wallace Stevens
- Tom Hiddleston reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18
- He wishes for the cloths of heaven, by William Butler Yeats, read by Anthony Hopkins
- Gathering Paradise: Bill Murray Reads to Construction Workers at Poets House.mov (the reading of Emily Dickinson’s poem begins at the 3rd minute, the rest is just funny)