Recently, I spent some time learning and reading poems from some other poets whose work I admire. I found the poems at The Poetry Storehouse (where a few of mine can be found too) a site created by NS and dedicated to bringing poetry off the page and into new venues. There’s a bunch of work licensed under the creative commons license, and it’s all available for remix–audio, video, whatever–so long as it’s for noncommercial use.

So, I went and did some looking and read the following poems:

A Ghazal On Birth Of The Buddha: Bardo 3
 by Uma Gowrishankar
Skimming by Janeen Rastall
Horses by Kristine Ong Muslim
my days are flocks of starlings by NS

I recorded a couple last spring and again, this was a cool thing to do. It is one thing to read a poem, even read it over and over again to oneself, but to say the words, over and over and then to hear yourself say them and then to say them again (the repetitions required to get a satisfactory reading) is to go farther into the poem than you might have imagined was possible. Suddenly, you start to see the things between the lines and letters. Sometimes, you stop in your tracks mid-read and realize you have to start over. That’s a good thing.

In each case, I started by just recording the lines in my classroom while I have it to myself during lunchtime. But with each subsequent reading, I found myself feeling the poems more as the speaker rather than an outside reader. I suppose it must be a bit like this for an actor learning a character, moving from reader to this other self that exists in the lines of the poem.

I don’t know if this is how poetry reading should be done, but it makes sense to me to think of a poem as something that is said or told as if letting the audience in on some secret rather than recited or pronounced (in the sense of pronouncement). When I read to my students, this approach seems to work best for them. They actually listen.

The best thing about this is that by the end, when I sit back and listen, I feel like I’ve come to understand the poem in a way I hadn’t before. As if now, I’ve really walked that mile in the other’s shoes. This came about most especially when I was working on Gowrishankar’s poem. It’s one thing to get the idea of reincarnation of the soul as an outsider, but reading the poem aloud and then listening to it helped me feel it in a more personal way.

So, thank you to NS for creating the Storehouse and to the poets who’ve posted their work for others like me to experiment with. And if you’re reading this, consider paying a visit and listening or watching what’s been done, and perhaps even add your own contribution.