A dear friend & I have been having an ongoing discussion about rereading work when one is a featured reader at an event. I have no problem with others who decide to read the same work again at readings, especially in the case of published works, where one of the main reasons a reader is invited is to promote their recently published material in order to incite audiences to buy the book or chapbook. I can see all this, but my own practice is to try to read new material at readings. I have very little experience with reading in cities other than my own, so I'm not talking about touring, which has its own set of challenges.
One of the primary reasons why I read new material at readings is because an upcoming reading acts as inspiration. & by new material, I mean work that I have not read in public before. Not to say that I haven't gone over the work carefully & revised it as much as possible. Reading to audiences is an important part of my creative process.
Also because I am in a phase (six years so far & counting) where I am writing long poems & poem series, to reread the same part of a manuscript feels odd to me, but at the same time, to extract a later part can often not feel right either. I would be curious to know about the practice of other poets when it comes to selecting & reading excerpts from long poems/poems series.
For those who write individual isolated poems of one page, I can see why reading them over again might still have resonance for the writer, since one can recombine the poems in different orders, add other newer poems in between & change the tones & energies offered to the readers, but long poems/poem series occupy a certain amount of space that, for me at least, means that they maintain their own tone, no matter what other works are read during the reading.
To be frank, the reason I read at readings is to get a sense of how the work is perceived by others, to help me improve the work itself which I practice & edit thoroughly before a reading.
On a side note, I have found that listening to the same large excerpt from a long poem or poem series can become tiresome for readers, so I tend to offer only short five minute slices of the manuscript, rather than the whole roast.
My next reading will be at the Dusty Owl Reading Series on September 22 when I will share the Owl stage with Craig Calhoon, whose short stories are engaging, dark & surprising. More details to follow…