Basking in the Afterglow and 10 Tips for What Makes a Reading Work

I am thrilled to be on the other side of my Seattle Arts and Lectures Thursday night reading and to have survived intact. Thank you to Rebecca Hoogs, superb poet and organizer, for providing me this opportunity and assuring that the evening came off without a hitch.

What an intense experience -- in a good way. I thought it might be helpful to others (or humorous) to go over what I learned preparing for this reading.

Practice really helps. Somehow I need to learn this again and again.

I wrote out all my introductions to the poems and my thank yous although I didn’t read any of them verbatim – except the opening remarks. The notes provided confidence and made sure I didn't come up with weird off the cuff remarks.

I read the poems out loud for quite awhile until my mouth knew the words by heart.

I wrote my own notations to stress a certain word or highlight words I might trip over.

I printed everything out onto one paper document rather than moving back and forth between my books. This way I could enlarge the font so the reading was easy for (ahem) middle age eyes. I also didn’t get nervous as to what book to pull from next.

I remembered Terrance Hayes’ advice to himself at the Skagit Poetry Festival: Know your start point and your end point. I wanted everything to go well — but I knew that I needed a strong opening and closing poem.

Get by with a little help from your friends. Before the reading I asked about six friends for suggestions on what I should read. They gave good (and often opposing) advice on individual poems but reminded me that humor is really important -- as is gravitas.

Boots make the woman. Yes, I went out hours before I had my sound check and purchased a pair of purple and black boots: zipper on one side, laces on the other. They were boots made to perform in and I didn't want to disappoint them.

Try to read something for a dear friend or a lover. I read poems to both because these are people in my life whom I love. The poems make me happy. I also knew that two people would be happy to hear their dedications. Audiences also like something real.

I started with “harder” subjects and ended with love.

What are your favorite reading tips? It's good to try new things...


  1. Great tips.

    Congratulations on the review of your collection in Valparaiso Poetry Review.


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