In celebration of National Poetry Month and our 30 Days to Find the Poet in You campaign, we’ve come up with some fun exercises to get you into the spirit of creative expression.
The first thing you’ll need is a willing furry friend (feathered and scaled friends will work in a pinch). The second thing is a poem, preferably something you’re unfamiliar with. What you’ll be doing here is reciting a poem to a pet. Reciting poetry to your pets can serve a lot of purposes, from strengthening public speaking ability, to deepening your understanding of a particular piece. With each exercise below, we’ve highlighted a way that they can be used to improve your experience with poetry (and daily life).
Exercise 1. Inflection:
- Read the poem in a steady, unchanging voice. Try not to change your pitch (higher or deeper sound), or tone (more or less sound). Make note of the way the poem sounds to you. Did that reading with no inflection evoke any feeling? Did your pet look at you while you were reading? Are you confused about any of the lines you just read?
- Now read the poem in your natural cadence (the way you would speak it as part of a normal conversation). Note the sections of the poem that you emphasized without thinking about it. Did those inflected words and phrases improve your understanding of the lines that you just read?
- Finally, read the poem as if you are giving an impassioned speech, increasing your pitch and tone at least once on each line (wherever you think more “feeling” is needed). Note the way that reading this way made you feel. What kind of reaction did you get from your pet? Did you discover anything new about the words that you just read?
This exercise is great for children. It gives them the opportunity to really get silly or dramatic reciting some poetry, but also may help with breaking down the feeling behind complex word clusters.
Exercise 2. Projection:
- Get close to your pet, and whisper the poem to him. Feel free to utilize the things you learned from the Inflection exercise. Did the pet look at you? Or leave? How did you connect to the words? Did any words or phrases seem appropriate as a whisper?
- Step far away from your pet, and yell the poem loud enough to be sure that he can hear you (try not to look directly at him, so he doesn’t think he’s in trouble). How did your pet react? How did you connect? Do any of the words or phrases seem appropriate as a yell?
- Bridge half of the distance, and this time, speak normally, but imagine that you're trying to grab your pet's attention. You will need to speak loudly enough that he can hear you, but clearly enough that he will be able to understand you. Imagine that the air for these words comes from your stomach instead of your throat. Were you able to inflect in the right places? Were there words or phrases that you felt should still be louder or quieter than the rest? How did it feel to yell or whisper them?
In addition to getting you to think about the writer’s meaning, this is a great exercise to practice if you have issues with, or want to get better at public speaking.
There are a world of things that you can do to get more in touch with the world of poetry. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Use some of the things you’ve learned here to write your own poem! Or just have fun reading to your pets! Let us know if anything fun and unexpected happens. Do you have a way of engaging with poetry that we haven’t mentioned yet? Let us know in the comments!
Or head on over to Read A Poem To Your Pet Part 2 - Posture And Movement