Poetry is meant to be read aloud. For hundreds of years poets followed the Oral Tradition of reading their poems aloud. It was the only way.
“I apologize for not responding sooner to your letter, but I had laryngitis and could not read it.”
In the last century, with a few exceptions such as Dylan Thomas, this tradition was in danger. We may have a revitalization under way with Slam Poetry (akin to hip-hop), but that culture carries some problems with it. If we keep in mind that sound is to poetry as color is to visual art, we shall also discover the poems we like are more easily memorized.
Try the “electio” method by reading these poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson and the sonnets of William Shakespeare aloud, speaking into a corner and letting the words flow over you.
Poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head
Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall,
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The leaves will whisper there of her, and some,
Like flying words, will strike you as they fall;
But go, and if you listen she will call.
Go the western gate, Luke Havergal—
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies
To rift the fiery night that's in your eyes;
But there, where western glooms are gathering,
The dark will end the dark, if anything:
God slays Himself with every leaf that flies,
And hell is more than half of paradise.
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies—
In eastern skies.
Out of a grave I come to tell you this,
Out of a grave I come to quench the kiss
That flames upon your forehead with a glow
That blinds you to the way that you must go.
Yes, there is yet one way to where she is,
Bitter, but one that faith may never miss.
Out of a grave I come to tell you this—
To tell you this.
There is the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There are the crimson leaves upon the wall.
Go, for the winds are tearing them away,—
Nor think to riddle the dead words they say,
Nor any more to feel them as they fall;
But go, and if you trust her she will call.
There is the western gate, Luke Havergal—
Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “BEN JONSON ENTERTAINS A MAN FROM STRATFORD”:
Ben Jonson , Shakespeare, and the poet/ interpreter, Robinson. ( Jonson was a famous contemporary of Shakespeare.) Here are some excerpted lines just to tempt you for the whole compelling read:
“I’ll meet him out alone of a bright Sunday,
William Shakespeare was indeed the father of a world of his own making. I suppose that all, the many of us, who put together “for love of poetry” sites wonder what we should do with him. Of course he cannot be left out. In this section I have chosen to try to honor him through his distinctive contribution (always distinctive) of Sonnets. Over the years he wrote 154 of them. These selections are among the most famous.
The Sonnet form consists of three four-line stanzas or quatrains and a couplet in iambic pentameter (which Shakespeare used extensively).
Sonnet 29When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
When my love swears that she is made of truth