March 8, 2023, by UoN School of English

Why we should read poetry and prose aloud

Reading poetry or prose aloud has long been a popular tradition. It is an oral work of art, allowing an audience to take in the sounds and rhythms that the internal mind cannot emulate. However, it wasn’t until last year did I really come to appreciate it.

As a child, my parents would read lullabies to lull me to sleep – reading the words myself was impossible until primary school started. The rhythmic patterns of ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ was soothing and simple, the repetitive ‘twinkle’ allowing child me to remember its lines. Yet as I aged and learnt how to read, the importance of sound became secondary: reading and writing a story was more crucial. Words remained glued to a page, unable to be spoken out loud. I soon forgot that uttering these sentences to the world was just as impactful as reading them inside of my head.

A book rests on a tray, alongside a cup of tea on a saucer, and a pot of flowers.

People enjoy poetry and prose readings. They enjoy hearing the musicality of language. They enjoy the shared excitement between them and the speaker, the physical tension as a speech reaches its crescendo. It wasn’t until I participated in a placement at The Royal British Legion club in Beeston that I recalled the excitement of reading aloud. Alongside other students, I read various poems to an audience with mild dementia. Each person would listen attentively, absorbing catchy poems such as ‘The Tiger’ by William Blake. Afterward, we would discuss the poem and how much we liked it. Such an experience has helped with my confidence in speaking out loud, but it also means a lot to see other people appreciating oral poetry.

Words mustn’t be contained to a page; our voices are instruments and we should use them to speak and to listen to the beauty of language.

– Bethan Beddow

Posted in Literature, 1500 to the presentStudent Words