I read an article a few months ago with the very best title: Stop Using Poet Voice. It's a must-read for anyone who's ever been to a literary reading or had the intention of participating in one. If you don't know what Poet Voice is, be very glad, and then read this description from the article.
“Poet Voice,” is the pejorative, informal name given to this soft, airy reading style that many poets use for reasons that are unclear. The voice flattens the musicality and tonal drama inherent within the language of the poem and it also sounds overly stuffy and learned. In this way, Poet Voice does a disservice to the poem, the poet and poetry. It must be stopped.
And it's not just poets that read their work like this. Poet Voice is everywhere. I attended a reading a few years back with a panel of authors, one a well-known Canadian fiction writer, the second, a British writer of historical romance, and the third, another Canadian writer whose book was about dissociative identity disorder. Obviously, they presented a range of material (a traumatic stillbirth, a getaway on horseback, a dialogue between the main character's ego personality and one of the alters) but they all read their chosen passages in an exceedingly slow, very nearly monotone. I understand the motivation. We all want to be taken seriously and Poet Voice does sound deadly serious, but it's also incredibly boring and makes us all sound pompous.
But here's the thing. I'm going to read publicly from Fathom Lines at the end of October and I, like so many others, am slightly uncomfortable with the sound of my voice. Obviously, I'll be recording myself a lot in the weeks to come, because I'm a nerd, and to ensure I'm not even close to doing Poet Voice. But give me some advice. I know there are actors and teachers and singers who read this blog occasionally--all of you have normalized the way you use your voice in public. Any tips? My writer buddy Emily suggests that I not use different voices when I do dialogue bits. Hahaha! She's obviously been to some more entertaining readings than I have!
This is funny and kind of related: Nina Millin does a dramatic monologue of Beyonce's Single Ladies. Enjoy!
Erin Bedford, writer.