Performing off the Page

Posted: June 10, 2010 in Poetry, The Copper Conundrum

So I inadvertantly discovered the secret formula for getting hits on this blog: say nice things about Amal.

Seriously though, I got a record number of hits over the last two days (not counting the day I ended up on some blog roller… but those weren’t ‘real’ hits) and now the Amal post is my most read post of all time, passing the ‘N’ Word post (and leaving it in the dust – 62 to 38 at last count).

It is nice to have my most read post be about something positive instead of something negative.

In my effort to get more hits, this one is about Amal as well! Well kind of…

Last night I joined Ikenna and Brandon to facilitate the Ingredients workshop at the Umi Cafe (which you should ALL come to… every Wednesday at 7pm). One of the things that came up is the reminder that there is a skill in presenting your work.

It is easy to say sometimes ‘I am not a spoken word artist… I write for the page’ but then when you wish to present your work, you still need to be able to recite it in a manner than does justice to your work. This is why I brought up Amal. She does not identify as a spoken word artist, and she mostly reads off paper when she performs, but she still does so in way that engages the audience and allows her work to shine through.

When I criticize page poet readings, it isn’t the concept of page poetry, it is that so many of them have no idea how to read in a way that lets the compelling nature of the work come through.


(And, in fact, if you come to Bill Brown at 8pm at the Cajun Attic tonight, you will see Danielle Gregoire and me – two thirds of the Copper Conundrum – as features… and I will be reading two or three pieces off paper. I will just do so in a way that let’s the work take center stage.)

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

  1. So I inadvertantly discovered the secret formula for getting hits on this blog: say nice things about Amal.

    Bwahahaha! 36 of those hits may well have been me going back to read it again over and over. >.>

    As to the page/spoken thing — it’s not even so much the paper as it is the writing process, the fact that when I hear poets like LP (was that her name?) just go up and rumble these rhythms at me, I’m hearing music as well. I think it’s a difference in emphasis, inasmuch as when I write on the page, it’s working on the page first and then out loud, whereas for spoken word I get the impression that it works first out loud and then on the page. I mean, at Goblin Fruit one of our big things is that the poems we choose read well aloud, which is why we have recordings too, but I feel spoken word takes it a step further.


    Hah! I think too we might say don’t hide your VOICE behind paper — that the paper’s not a wall keeping you from the audience. I’ve seen AMAZING poets read that way and my heart just aches for them.

    All that said, though, I’m so glad you enjoyed the reading as well as the speaking! 🙂

    • rpriske says:

      LP is her stage name, yes.

      I agree it is a question of hiding your voice, but the reason I say work is that when I hear someone who doesn’t understand the importance of presentation (and again, I am not talking about performance per se), they do a disservice to their own writing.

      A great performance cannot make a bad poem great but a bad performance can make a great poem bad.

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