Poetry should be made to be read aloud

Poetry should be made to be read aloud

My friend and fellow poet, Allan Peterson, and I have an ongoing friendly debate. He says he writes to be viewed on a page and read with the eyes. I have no objection to that as far as it goes. But my prejudice is to write also for the voice and the ear.

It is, as I say, a friendly debate, only about emphasis. Allan’s poetry often lives well on the tongue. See, for example, “Placemat”:


Lance Mannion makes the case for hearing the “poetry” in his playfully serious online article, “Why we need poetry: How William Wordsworth and I saved a marriage”:

“You can understand the themes, know the history, be able to put it all in a critical, literary, and biographical context, but if you never really hear it, if you don’t know and love the sound of it, you’ve missed the point.

“You’ve missed the poetry.”


You don’t have to go as far as Gerard Manley Hopkins or Dylan Thomas, in whom sometimes sound overcomes sense. But poetry began in the dark around fires, in incantations accompanied by drum, breath, and grunts of Amen. It’s soul and gut lies in that tradition, as the best Hip Hop artists know and demonstrate.

Don’t miss the poetry in poetry. Let it live from the chest and ribs, off the tongue, and into the wind and ears.

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