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Has the Writing and Reading of Poetry Gone Out of Style?



I recently acquired an illustrated book of poetry from a friend (which she had self-published) and it got me thinking about how many of us have got out of the habit of reading poetry - especially out loud.

In the past, children would have to do this at school - and many would include reading poetry out loud as part of a drama activity.

But does reading poetry aloud come with benefits?

Yes, there are many.

  • It can deepen your understanding and engagement with the text of the poem itself.
  • It can improve your literary and language skills.
  • It can help to improve your speaking and listening skills.
  • It can help you to increase your appreciation of poetry and
  • It can improve your speaking voice.

 Poetry for Dummies

There is a book that has been published in recent years by John Timpane of The Poetry Center and here is what Poetry for Dummies says:

"When you read poetry aloud, read it as though you were delivering the poem to an attentive audience.


Here are the three most important reasons you should read poetry aloud:

  • Poets design their poems to be read aloud. The earliest poetry was oral. People chanted it, sang it, recited it — and they still do. From its earliest forms to the poems being written today, poetry has kept its close alliance with speaking and singing.

    The music of poetry — that is, its sounds and rhythms — isn't just for the eye and the mind, it's meant to be given voice. In fact, as they write, most poets imagine someone reading their poems aloud. Poetry is supposed to be a living thing, and poets write accordingly, with an audience in mind.

  • You'll experience the whole poem if you read it aloud. Poems read aloud are different animals from poems read silently. A big part of poetry is sound and rhythm — and the best way to get the full impact of these important elements is to put them into action by pronouncing them with your own throat, lungs, teeth, lips, and tongue.

    Sound and rhythm don't exist just for their own sakes, either; they exist to give you pleasure (because humans naturally like music and rhythm in poetry) and lead you to the poem's meanings. Commas, spaces between words, line endings, and other pauses may hint at melancholy, hesitancy, or passion. Punctuation has its traditional functions (exclamations! questions? wistfulness . . .), and it often also is used in unexpected ways — or not used at all. You may miss all these signals if you don't read aloud.

  • You'll understand and remember more if you read aloud. Memory and understanding are everything. If you remember something and understand it, it takes up long-term residence inside your brain. And then you can use that knowledge as a building block to discover more and more about the world of poetry."

My own experience!

As a young child, I recited poetry in public and I still have a recording of my efforts with "The Watchmaker' Shop" and that was a very long time ago!


The Watchmaker's Shop (by anonymous)

A street in our town has a dear little shop
With tumble-down walls and a thatch on the top;
And all the wee windows with crookedy panes
Are shining and winking with watches and chains.

All sorts and all sizes in silver and gold,
And brass ones and tin ones and new ones and old;
And clocks for the kitchen and clocks for the hall,
High ones and low ones and wag-at-the-wall.

The watchmaker sits on a long-legged seat
And bids you the time of the day when you meet;
And round and about him there's ticketty-tock
From the tiniest watch to the grandfather clock.

I wonder he doesn't get tired of the chime
And all the clocks ticking and telling the time;
But there he goes winding lest any should stop,
This dear little man in the watchmaker's shop.