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 Poetry Recitation--Any Advice?

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Number of posts : 262
Age : 24
Location : California
Registration date : 2008-12-04

PostSubject: Poetry Recitation--Any Advice?   Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:30 am

I'm going to be in this citywide poetry reciting competition. If I win, I get to go to statewide. I'm going to be reciting "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar, "When I Am Asked" by Liesel Mueller, and "Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Lord Tennyson. If anyone has any tips for me I'd love to hear them.

And yes, I've been gone since forever. My computer's been throwing hissy fits, but I'm back now.
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PostSubject: Re: Poetry Recitation--Any Advice?   Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:23 am

Hi Magda, great to have you back hippie

So, about these poems. I'll copy them here to make clear what I have referring to, and mark my comments in italics.

Paul Laurence Dunbar
We Wear the Mask

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
First of all, I'd take care not to express the rhyme scheme too much - i.e. don't pause in between lines. Also, this first stanza is very dark and mysterious, I'd perhaps try to make that clear by reciting them with an appropriate voice.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
This second stanza is more open, and naturally louder. It's a cry to the world, and should be expressed as such.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Here we have the climax of them poem, made clear by the strong adjectives and exclamation mark at the end. This should be stronger than the second stanza, and perhaps be made clear by pauses in between ideas.

When I Am Asked


When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.

It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.

I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.

I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

This poem is very different from the first one. It makes me think of an old woman, sitting perhaps with her grandchildren, and talking about her past. Your voice should be thoughtful, dreamy, even absent-minded, just like an old woman reminiscing about her past.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This is surely the most difficult poem you have chosen. It is both far from your time, and far from your environment. I'd recommend trying to imagine what it would be like to be a soldier in this battle. It's a traumatic experience, for sure, and one connected with loss and mourning, but this poem puts the emphasis on the courage and bravery of the men involved. They don't fear death, or at least do not show their fear, and that should be the primary mood of your recital.

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd & thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter'd & sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

This poem has a very clear rhythm. Though that should not be lost in your recital, it should not be the primary feature. Take care to set your pauses wisely, and try not to over-emphasize the rhyme scheme.

I hope this is of any use at all, and good luck!!

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PostSubject: Re: Poetry Recitation--Any Advice?   Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:43 am

I love 'Charge of the Light Brigade,' it is one of my favorite poems. To recite it well I think one needs both passion and force with some sentiment mixed in, if that makes sense. Maybe you could try finding a recitation of it online and listen to it. This poem is great when recited well. Laura gave you some great advice on this one. If I can find an online recitation of it, I'll post the link. I'm not saying do exactly what they did, but it's a great way to take notes.
Good luck.

There were also tons more at youtube...but I liked this one.
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PostSubject: Re: Poetry Recitation--Any Advice?   Sat Feb 14, 2009 9:27 pm

Thank you both for the advice. I really wish I could record things on my computer so you could hear how I sounded and tell me if anything's wrong.

Also, what order do you think I should do them in? The third one may not be used and will be a tie breaker. I'm probably going to do "Light Brigade" second, as it's the most challenging one and probably the one that would leave the biggest impression.
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