Imagine travelling to Stratford, Ontario: home of the Stratford Festival, considered to be “North America’s largest classical repertory theatre, presenting the works of William Shakespeare and other great writers”.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18
To be or not to be…a poet on stage?
That is a good question. Another thought: must poetry be read or performed in front of an audience to be fully appreciated? Of course! Poetry is more than words on a page. It is rhythm and sound and needs to be heard aloud.
Last Sunday, thanks to a suggestion from Canadian poet John Ambury, The Ontario Poetry Society teamed up with Poetry Stratford to present “BARDIC COLLAGE”, a members’ reading and open mic at Cafe Ten, a local restaurant in the heart of Stratford. Despite the absence of stage and microphone, 24 poets as well as three spotlight readers demonstrated the theatrical power of poetry.
This is what I learned:
*Every poet should try reading in Stratford. (Trust me: Shakespeare’s poetic muse still lives and breathes on the stage and in the streets. You can feel it.)
*Meeting in a central location encourages more sharing and networking with other poets. (Poets ranged in age from the youngest being in his early 20s to the oldest being an amazing 91 years old. Local poets from Stratford met out-of-town writers from Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Markham, Port Dover, Sarnia, Toronto and more. Emerging poets equally shared the spotlight with experienced award-winning scribes.)
*Memorizing words and verses can enhance the audience’s enjoyment. (Poets who use eye-to-eye contact have a stronger connection with the audience.)
*Dramatic gestures as well as the projection and varying of one’s voice will hold the audience’s attention. (The Stratford poets were clearly influenced by their love of the theatre.)
*Daring performances with sound effects are unforgettable. (No one will forget Poet Laureate John B. Lee’s “moooooooo-ving” performance of his poem “Jimi Hendrix in the Company of Cows”. Now that took courage.)
*The Stratford Reading experience is worth repeating. (Based on participant and audience feedback, The Ontario Poetry Society hopes to organize another Stratford event for next year.)
Enjoy the pictorial highlights of the afternoon.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The next members’ reading and open mic for The Ontario Poetry Society will be held Sunday, October 5 in Ottawa. More details here..