What does it take to make a performance compelling? Sometimes it is hard to put into words exactly why you cannot take your eyes off a recitation. You will notice in each of these video clips that the students themselves become almost secondary to the language. Everything about the recitation draws you in to the language of the poem. You will also notice that each student has profoundly internalized their poem. Keep in mind that there is no definitive recitation style of any one poem. Though many can follow some examples, each student will draw on their own experiences to create a unique interpretation. But there are some ways through which they can make their presentation memorable.
Body language and poise
Engagement with the audience through physical presence including appropriate body language and confidence without appearing artificial is very much important. Relax, be natural and enjoy your poem. Present yourself well and be attentive. Use good posture. Be confident and make a direct connection with the audience. In contrast, nervous gestures, poor eye contact with the audience and lack of poise or confidence will make your performance a bad one.
Volume, pace, rhythm, intonation, and proper pronunciation
Pronunciation, pacing, volume, rhythm and intonation greatly enhance the recitation. Make sure you know how to pronounce every word in your poem. Try to project every audience. Capture the attention of everyone, including the people in the back row. However, do not mistake yelling for good projection. Proceed at a fitting and natural pace. Avoid nervously rushing through the poem. Do not speak so slowly that the language sounds unnatural or awkward or to create a false sense of drama. With rhymed poems, be careful not to recite in a sing-song manner. Line breaks are a defining feature of poetry. Decide whether a break requires a pause and, if so, how long to pause.
Recitation is about conveying a poem’s sense with its language. A strong performance will rely on a powerful internalization of the poem rather than distracting dramatic gestures. You will represent the poem’s voice, not a character’s. You must enhance the understanding and enjoyment of the poem without overshadowing the language. Do not act out each word of the poem. Movement or accents must not detract from the poem’s voice. Remember that you are the vessel of your poem. Have confidence that your poem is strong enough to communicate without a physical illustration. Let the words of the poem do the work. Avoid monotone delivery. However, too much enthusiasm can spoil your performance.
Evidence of understanding
This category is to evaluate your comprehension and mastery of the poem. The poet’s words should take precedence, and you should be able to voice them in a way that helps the audience to understand the poem better. To do this, you must effectively use intonation, emphasis, tone and style of delivery. For this reason you must understand the poem fully. Be attentive to the messages, meanings, allusions, irony, tones of voice, and other nuances in your poem. Be sure you know the meaning of every word and line in your poem.
This category is to evaluate the degree to which the recitation has become more than the sum of its parts. Ask yourself some questions. Did you captivate the audience with the language of the poem? Did you bring the audience to a better understanding of the poem? Did your physical presence, voice and articulation, and dramatic appropriateness all seem on target and unified to breathe life into the poem? Did you understand and show mastery of the art of recitation? A low response will be received for recitations that are poorly presented, ineffective in conveying the meaning of the poem, or conveyed in a manner inappropriate to the poem.