Do not be confused or mislead: the poetry recital IS a performance.

You should prepare as an actor prepares: know the 'script'! Know how to 'act' it out.

Props, costumes, add to theatricality, but are NOT mandatory.

Vocal inflections, facial expressions, posture, pose, 'attitude,' tone: All communicate as directly as do words.

Practice speaking into a microphone, and recording and playing your voice back: Learn how you sound—and how to project that sound.

YES: PROJECT! Sometimes you need to compete with bar-crowd noises, or windy conditions, or an air conditioner, or the raucous event next door. All proceeds best if you know how to PROJECT your voice over any din OR can convince the extra-noise sources to calm themselves or to be calmed (or turned off).

MODULATE your voice as you need: Be LOUD and soft, RAUCOUS and even, as the material demands. Every poem is a piece of theatre waiting to be embodied and spoken.

Wanna PLAY some music? Go ahead. BUT, usually, it's tricky for POET and musician to perform together UNLESS the musician plays 'under' the words, or the poet SINGS, or the musician only plays when the poet ain't SPEAKIN.

ENUNCIATE too—even slang—so that words and their parts can be heard distinctly. Thy poetry is LOST when thy words slur all over your tongue and teeth and lips.

The Reciting Poet is part-actor and part-singer: Have FUN up there, 'on stage,' reminding your audience of how ancient this MAGIC is.

A good SPEAKER of VERSE weaves an oral/aural universe that is—or may seem—more spontaneously emotive and actual than the 'real' world everyone calls home.

GOT a point to make, a song to unleash, a prayer to utter, a lover to praise, an enemy to chastise? Perform it in remembered and MEMORABLE verse.

You can BE funny, angry, reverential, 'cool,' nasty, sweet, dirty, wistful, nostalgic, prophetic, political, plain, mystical, meditative, analytical, scatological, funky, zany, etc.

THOU MUSTN'T BE libellous, slanderous, hate-mongering, panic-inducing, seditious (unless attacking undemocratic practices), etc.: IF in DOUBT / Leave it OUT.

Marcia

Remember your lilac perfume the rain only magnified,
Your kiss like baked apples—cinnamon all over,
And the orange curving of your tensed thighs,
Your body, lean and warm as July.

Remember the merciless rose in your black hair—
And the black hair of your lord-have-mercy rose—
Cola-sweet, cashmere-soft, cocoa-scented.
We snoozed under stars that were ... gold earrings.

Now I awake to stars like dried-up sunflowers,
Finger thorny words in spotlight darkness.

Oh girrrrllll, whaddya mean
You distrust these metaphors?

Bellissima mia,
We had another way of speaking...

When we were honest.

First appeared in Sons of Lovers: An Anthology of Poetry by Black Men
2000, Oyster Knife Publishing