In junior high, we students got our firs…

In junior high, we students got our first taste of performance competition. It’s been called by many names, but we called it “oral interpretation”. I can’t now recall the exact categories; perhaps: dramatic, humorous, and poetry, but I may be wrong.

I remember that the most difficult part was picking a piece to perform. I poured over the works we had to choose from, even asking at one point if we could write our own. I was told you can sort of do that in high school. That category, it would turn out, was called “original oratory”.

I remember practicing a piece with the oral interp instructor. The piece used a regular foot and meter, and it even rhymed. As I began to read the lines, the instructor stopped me. She informed me that, for competition, poetry is not supposed to be read that way. Read it by the sentences; don’t pause at the line endings, and don’t make it obvious that you’re rhyming.

Honestly, I was put off by this. It seemed unnatural and contrary to read poetry that way. It felt like an attempt to read poetry as if it were prose. Wouldn’t this do a disservice to poetry? I asked all these questions of myself, but I did not ask them aloud. Instead, I did what I was told, and I reread the poetry, apparently to her liking.

I mention this because I just read some poetry. I mention this because I still think about how odd it felt to read poetry that way and how it runs across my mind whenever I come upon poetry. I think about that, but then I compare it to my own poetry. When I write poetry, I am very much aware of the line endings. That break, that step, is as much an important part of the poem as the meter and foot. It equal in importance to the words themselves. Why, then, shouldn’t someone read poetry for the lines?

I, deliberately, choose the life of each line. To read poetry ignorant of its physical structure is as graceful as somersaulting down a flight of stairs. The steps are there for a reason.

Author: Miles Rausch

I've made a smart playlist of all the songs with 0 plays. I listen to them because I feel bad for them not because I like the music. I'm THAT guy.

6 thoughts on “In junior high, we students got our firs…”

  1. I agree. I think it is the German in me. I always feel like, if you aren’t supposed to notice the lines and the rhymes, why are they there? Why is it written that way? I pay attention to the punctuation, too, but I usually read rhyming poetry more like song lyrics than prose. When singing, a lot of things depend on when you take a breath (usually at the punctuation), but you can still emphasize the lines.

  2. Your instructor is correct. Poetry is supposed to be read as written :> even though we like to make is lilt and twirl as we read it. That is where it is tough to get a good poetry presentation many times.

  3. While I do agree with you, I’ve also gained a subtle respect after reading/reciting poetry the way your teacher explained you “should.” I had a teacher do the same my sophomore year of college and I initially disagreed entirely. But, after reading poetry from extremely talented poets, there’s a beauty in the rhythm and cadence involved in reading it the “right” way.

    Still, I like both options, and, more often than not, I fall on the side you’re on in this post. Interesting topic of discussion though, M!les. Thanks for throwing it out there.

    Also, I’m no entirely sure if I used cadence correctly up above. I looked it up on Wikipedia and it didn’t really help a ton. So…if I’m wrong, just discard my use of the word “cadence.” Thanks.

  4. I agree. To read it how it should be read isn’t as nice to me as reading it how I feel it should be. Isn’t it all interpretation anyway? I use it a lot in class. Reading in rhyme most of the fun, and of course bouncing to the cadence.;-)

  5. I agree. To read it how it should be read isn’t as nice to me as reading it how I feel it should be. Isn’t it all interpretation anyway? I use it a lot in class. Reading in rhyme is most of the fun, and of course bouncing to the cadence. ;-)

  6. Wow. Seems like there’s real pain in this post. I’d ask you to call me so we can talk out your “feelings,” but then I remembered you’re being a girl. Poetry is for people with beret’s and wire framed glasses…and the french. You are none of those. WWRHD. They would say, “quit crying about it, little crybaby”

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