Listening to Poetry vs Reading Poetry, Part 1

Listening vs reading poetry

Do you prefer to read your poetry on the page, or listen to it? (Or watch and listen to it?) Which are you more comfortable with? As a poet, do you write your poem to be read on the page or performed? Give a listen to the YouTube poem readings below and consider how each makes you feel. Is it that the poet is engaging, or is it the words that grab you? Do you understand the poem the first time you listen, or does a turn of phrase distract you? 

Below the videos are the texts of the poems. When you read them, do they make you feel differently about the poems? Next blog post, I’ll talk a little about the psychology behind reading vs. listening. Enjoy these poets and their presentations. Who is your favorite?

Maya Angelou – Still I Rise

Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken

Lucille Clifton – Homage to My Hips

Rudy Francisco – If I was a Love Poet

Mary Oliver – Wild Geese

Billy Collins – The Lanyard

Seamus Heaney – Death of a Naturalist

Still I Rise 
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems.
Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.  Used by permission of Random
House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. 
All rights reserved.
The Road Not Taken 
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost 
from: The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, 
Complete and Unabridged. 
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (©1979)
homage to my hips
by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,   
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Lucille Clifton, “homage to my hips” 
from Good Woman. 
Copyright © 1987 by Lucille Clifton. 
Reprinted with the permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
If I was a Love Poet
by Rudy Francisco

I’m going to be honest,
I’m not a love poet
But if I was to wake up tomorrow morning
And decide that I really wanted to write about love
I swear that my first poem…
It would be about you

About how I loved you the same way
That I learned to ride a bike:
But reckless
With no training wheels or elbow pads
So my scars can tell you the story of how I fell for you
~Rudy Francisco

I’m not Rudy Francisco
But every man has his own words

So if I was a love poet
God knows I would still write about you
But I would write about how
That smile of yours might only last a moment
But I'll do everything I can to make it last a lifetime
And then... I will make sure it lasts an eternity

If I was a love poet
I would tell you how
You make all of my days
So I'll make it my duty to make all your tomorrows

I would tell you
That the sun rises each and every morning
Because it wants to see you
Because as bright as the sun is
It is blinded by your light
And you make me want to see
What blindness is really like
So I can look at you for the
Short moment before I lose my sight
Because then
Your image will always be with me

However, If I really cared
I would tell you
You’re better off alone
Than with me
Because I know
I know I’ll hurt you
And I can’t bare the thought of that

I would tell you
I’m not enough
And I never will be
Because enough isn’t in me

If I really cared
I would tell you
Because I don’t deserve the chance to speak to you

However to tell you any of this
You would have to be real

From "Helium" by Rudy Francisco. 
Publisher: Button Poetry (©2017)
Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

From 'Dream Work' by Mary Oliver. 
Publisher: The Atlantic Monthly Press (May 1986)
The Lanyard
by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

“The Lanyard” from The Trouble With Poetry: and Other Poems 
by Billy Collins, copyright © 2005 by Billy Collins. 
Used by permission of Random House, 
an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. 
All rights reserved. 
Death of a Naturalist
by Seamus Heaney

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst, into nimble
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

Seamus Heaney, "Death of a Naturalist" from Opened Ground: Selected poems 1966-1996. 
Copyright © 1999 by Seamus Heaney 
Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, 
All rights reserved.

To listen to more poems, start with our April 1, 2019 kick off of Poets Read on Gyroscope Review. There are 30 days of Gyroscope Poets for you to listen to. Start HERE.

If you’d like to watch a YouTube video of the Gyroscope reading, start HERE