The Oral Element

I feel like a lot of poetry is misread – poetry is an oral art form that is meant to be read aloud or performed. Poetry on the page is much different then poetry from the lips of a poet or from a performer.

Take E.E. Cummings as an example. Here is his written work:

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Compare that to this reading by Tom O’Bedlam:


I love E.E. Cummings, but I feel that sometimes his fun with punctuation and lack of capitalization can slow reading of his poetry down, which can lessen the enjoyment. But, when listening, you get the full feeling of the poem without having to figure out where the pauses are for brackets or if you should pause when reading between stanzas when there is no punctuation. I really feel that, other than shaped poetry which is specifically meant to be visual, all poems are supposed to be read aloud.

– Amanda Riggle


  1. Pingback: Reading Poetry Out Loud | The Poetics Project

  2. Pingback: How to Read Poetry with a Little Help from Billy Collins | The Poetics Project

Tell Us What You Think.