Rhythm, rhyme and memorising poetry.

I’ve been doing spoken word at people for five years or so now and during that time I’ve felt s slow progression and a steady ease with which I communicate the pieces I’m performing. By which I mean, I’ve kind of fallen into a rut. I write a piece, take it to a spoken word night, stand at the microphone and read it to a room full of strangers.
In the most part this is quite a comfortable method of performing. But lately I’ve been asking myself, is it performing? Over the last couple of years I’ve been to a lot of spoken word nights and I’ve seen poets and performers who are compelling and energetic, who communicate the ideas of their work to an appreciative audience.
I’ve started a regime of rehearsals, taking the pieces I wish to perform and memorising the text, which I’ve previously been loath to do. I’m doing it one poem at a time, concentrating on the new material initially. For the last two weeks I’ve been doing my darnedest to memorise a poem which I call ‘Broccoli Philosophy’, and it will get its debut tonight in Exeter. I’ve still not memorised it fully but it gives me much more scope to be more performative with the piece. I have two more pieces which I shall be concentrating on during the next couple of weeks.
But during this process I have learned a valuable lesson, and that’s the realisation that not every piece needs to be learned. A lot of comic potential comes from having the book in my hand, and pretending to be just as surprised as the audience. Therefore I have split my poetry into two definite performance brackets: book and no book. The fact I’m holding a book reinforces the idea that I am supposedly a poet, and this works for poems such as ‘Orgasms’, in which every verse has a humorous pay off. ‘Broccoli Philosophy’ has a much more Bristol style rhythm and rhyme and that works best memorised.
Which brings me to another thing.
You know all that hoo-hah when Dylan went electric? I’ve kind of done that lately with my poetry. I’ve been watching all the young poets, and listening to radio shows such as Laurie Bolger’s excellent Roundhouse Radio show, and analysing what makes a compelling piece. Those which hold the attention, performatively, have a definite rhythm and internal rhyme. ‘Broccoli Philosophy’ makes use of this. And I’ve been taking some old poems which were passable yet not part of my official canon, and rewriting them to give them the same rhythm and rhyme. This also helps me memorise them.
So that’s how things are at the moment. Rhythm and rhyme aid memorisation. This allows me to concentrate on gesture and emotion. Which is what I’ve been working on with my director, Ziggy. It’s an ongoing project and it’s going to take a few months, but right at this moment, I’m really enjoying the process! 

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s