Review of Ursula T. Gibson's Be Prepared, Don't Mumble, Look UP! or How to Read Poetry Out Aloud
That's right! Be prepared! Don't mumble! Look up, and for goodness sake, read your poetry OUT LOUD! These commands resonate through the very thorough, succinct, and gracious guide by Ursula T. Gibson.
Be Prepared opens with a checklist of reading faults: talking on the way to the podium (a personal pet peeve of the author, mentioned throughout the book), lack of eye contact, breath control, pacing, and apologizing at the end of the reading. I found myself cringing as I went through this list, making mental notes NOT to do these things anymore (at least not to talk on the way to the podium - a cardinal sin), but the tone of the author is hardly scolding. The emphasis is on improvement and more important, honoring the poetry with the best possible presentation.
Poets are led through a six-part series of exercises and explanations on how to increase their vocal talent, the importance of pronunciation and articulation of certain words (particularly in poems with dialect), preparation for a reading through the use of interpretation and appropriate material. There are breathing exercises, pronunciation guides, emphasis on the importance of body language and the interplay of emotion between poets and their audience. The idea of being prepared is reinforced by repeated admonitions to maintain eye contact, know your audience, and NEVER do a 'cold' reading of poetry, but to practice reading out loud before going in front of an audience.
As the editor of Poetic Voices (www.poeticvoices.com), Ms. Gibson spends a great deal of time reading out loud the poetry submissions she receives as part of her selection process. Her many years of experience as a performer and poet have imbued her with a zeal for well-presented and well-received poetry. For anyone desiring to improve (and I don't care how good you are, everyone needs to improve, I know I do!), Be Prepared provides the essential tools to achieve more passion and accuracy in poetic performance.
Gibson, Ursula T., Be Prepared, Don't Mumble, Look UP! or How to Read Poetry Out Loud, Dry Creek Press, 2003, 56 pages