I haven’t been attending a lot of readings these days, but now that the Ottawa International Writers Festival is on, I’m experiencing full immersion once more & i'm enjoying being steeped in fine literature. I’ve also attended a few poetry readings in the past month or so. This has led to a contemplation about what I find appealing about public readings.
A lot of writers are introverted; they have a hard time reading in front of an audience; perhaps they struggle with the microphone or stumble with their words. As an audience member, I understand that for them to read puts them out of their comfort zone. Perhaps because they are reading something very personal. I admire them and I pay special heed to their words.
Poets are particularly noted for introversion & all of the above. As an audience member I value smooth delivery much less than I do the ability to overcome discomfort & fear of sharing personal revelations. I appreciate the stumble & the trouble with the microphone. I relate to readers whose nervousness is reflected in the tremble of their pages.
I don’t want loud, I don’t want music accompanying the work. I don’t want the work to come with a beat or a lot of alliterative gimmicks. I don’t want speedy, jumbled up, filling all the space, telling me what I should think performances. I don’t want performance at all. I just want the quiet reader’s voice filling me with stories, words, feeling. To me, literature is an introspective stumbly art. Being human is stumbly. I like to see that stumble reflected in the work as it is read aloud.
This, of course, is my personal aesthetic. I can enjoy all kinds of entertainment; although seldom anything particularly loud & obnoxious that comes with a laugh track. I like my literature subtle & accompanied by a peaty scotch or a strong cup of smoky lapsang souchong tea. I like to be able to be quiet on my own for a while after listening to an author’s words. To take them in & mull them over.