Developing Voice

A cu p of want, a teaspoon of imagination and an ungreased cookie sheet is all we need to bake up a few poetry specific voices. Methods for mixing and icing will vary from person to person. Variety makes the world go round, brings spice to our lives and lays the cornerstones of individual thought; the useful path for one person often proves unattractive and unenlightening to another. None-the-less, it helps to know what worked for others. Below, find a general approach to developing new poetry voices stepped out and ready for assimilation, modification and regurgitation as you concoct your unique approach.
The Suggestion
When developing voices, internal or external, specifically for reading poetry accept the need for iteration and time investment.


Choose a favorite poem with little obvious complexity. Shorter may be better as memorizing part or all of the poem makes exercises easier.


Identify a voice you would like to hear: Uncle Fred; Foghorn Leghorn; Prospero; Jean Luc Picard; John Keating, any voice that seems appropriate; select and focus on one voice as you follow these steps to make it complete.


Read the poem you’ve chosen and imagine the voice you selected reading the poem aloud to you. If you stumble on syntax, let the voice determine where to pause, not pause, stress and not stress. The voice and your ear will know.
Concentrate on the voice as you read. Make the voice as strong, clear and unhesitating as possible. Do not worry about meaning but look for the rhythm and music inherent in the spoken words. As the music emerges, our subconscious builds our response to the poetry; that response defines meaning for us.
Occasionally we encounter barriers to developing the new inner voice. Speaking aloud can help. Even those who dislike the sound of their external voice can use that voice as an occasional tool.


When reading, we encounter phrases and words and realize we do not know enough about the voice we are trying to mimic; how would the voice read this phrase; these words? When this happens find recordings of the voice in performance or interview. I personally find interview more valuable unless the character is fictional, like John Keating. Listen to the recordings, listen for details of the voice. Your inner voice will blossom, filling in the blanks.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you feel comfortable with the voice.
Repeat all steps to develop voices two, three, four and more.
Have a good time.
© 2009 Chrome Poet

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