Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Thinking about performance and gesamtkunstwert

Since the positive feedback I received after the "Sitting Room" event on Friday I have been thinking a bit more about how to improve my poetry performance. i think the reason I got such a positive reaction is because I thought very carefully about what I was going to read out - what would be accessible to an audience that might never have heard the work before. I realised that the poems that work best are the ones that have some kind of narrative with surprising abstract imagery within this framework.

A couple of the poets read work that works well on the page but is hard to grasp when read aloud (unless you also have a copy of the poem in front of you). I think people at readings need familiar images to give them tools to navigate by - things that are ordinary, that they can relate to. Some of my poems (especially the mythical ones) work well on the page but are less accessible when read aloud, especially if you are not reading to a purely specialist poetry audience. What may work at Cafe Writers perhaps might not work as well with a more mixed audience. A reader doesn't want to scare people away from poetry with the denseness and complexity of their poems. That doesn't mean that they should dumb down their content either, just that we should think about our audience when selecting what to read rather than simply reading our personal favourites.

Today I came across the term "Gesamtkunstwert" - a work that encompasses many art forms. Wagner used the term to describe a performance that encompasses all the art forms - theatre, literature, music and the visual arts. This reminded me a little of "Sitting Room" and I wondered
how it would work if all the elements of the evening: film, poetry, music, were more connected somehow. I have also been thinking about how I might be able to incorporate images somehow into my readings. I have seen several performance poets who use power point to add imagery and text to their shows.

I have already decided that I like the use of physical gestures - for example touching the face, rubbing hands together, sniffing fingers - gestures that go with the text of course.

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