Recite Your Poem Contest - Judged - Roy Jerden's Blog

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Recite Your Poem Contest - Judged

Blog Posted:4/22/2013 4:26:00 PM
I have included all the poems (13) that qualified for this contest in the final judging so that you can hear them and comment. I'd also like your opinion here in this blog on the value of this kind of presentation and contest, in particular on which types of presentations (slide show, webcam, audio only) might have enhanced the experience for you.

I am including the content of my previous blog below, as it is about to drop off the list.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened this contest, but it was something I had been thinking about for a while.

Research indicates that spoken poetry predates the written word, and some of our oldest literature is poetry. There is an element that is missing when we read a poem with our eyes only, no matter how beautiful, and that is the voice of the author, or lacking that, a skilled reciter who can inject the emotional tones and rhythms of the spoken word that we can, at best, only imagine.

It became clear to me that some poems are elevated to a much higher plane than others when they are recited. Some poems that I read and liked, I just absolutely loved when they were recited. So I guess there are "eye" poems and "ear" poems, in a sense. Perhaps the "eye" poems are the ones that excite my mind with ideas, and the "ear" poems are the ones with sounds that touch my heart and evoke deeper emotions. I think there's a place for both, but it's clear to me that I was missing something with the "ear" poems until I heard them recited.

There has been quite a bit of passionate discussion around the relative value of poetry being recited vs being read. I have paid attention and read some of the criticism, which primarily addresses "performance" poetry, i.e., live poetry reading attended by an audience and probably included poetry slams as well. Some of the criticism of "performance" poetry is avoided, I think, by using AV media to create a presentation, which can be played whenever desired. As it is a recording, it can be replayed, just as a written poem can be re-read. You can also display the words as the poem is recited, so listeners can follow along. You don't have to show your face if you don't want to. There is, of course, no live interaction, but this allows the listener to focus better on the poem, IMHO. And last, YOU are in control of editing until you get it right. No stage fright slipups here.

I suppose all this modern AV technology might be overwhelming to folks who are used to just putting their thoughts to words. The contest entries go all over the board in terms of how fancy people decided to get. There are Flash presentations, video slide presentations with voice and music, a video of part of a play, and even some webcam recitations. Many of these were helpful by putting the words on the screen while the poem was recited, and some enhanced the experience with images. One of the best, however, was a simple audio file of the author reciting the poem. I had the poem in front of me while I listened, and I must say it was quite powerful, as I was able to focus fully on the recitation without visual distractions. 

I actually went back and played some of the other presentations again, this time only listening while reading along with the poem. Not in all cases can I say this, but in several I can definitely say that less was more, much more.

To create an audiovisual experience that combines the voice, images and music in a harmonious way where each component enhances the experience without taking something away is a very tough task, requiring patience, practice and skill, but it's worthwhile, I believe.

Here are some suggestions for AV presentations of poems based on what I experienced and also what I know from having produced quite a bit of educational media in my college teaching days:

1. Keep the focus on the poem. Limit the number of images and when you do switch images, the transition should be gradual, like a fade out, fade in. (Rap or an other staccato-rhythm poem might be an exception)
2. Use subtle imagery. Don't try to match the image to the words being spoken. You don't need to hit the listener over the head. This is poetry. Use images that suggest the subject matter without being explicit.
3. If there is a video of the person reciting the poem, use a socially comfortable distance. Remember that you are a stranger to most of your listeners. A close-up is too intimate and is likely to make some folks uncomfortable, unless that is your intention. Too far away and all facial expression is lost and the voice has that auditorium sound, losing the nuances. Use a background without any distracting movement. Just a shot of the reciter about 4-6 feet away reading their poem in a well-lit (dark is creepy, if that's the effect you desire) room would be about perfect. Use emotion in your voice and facial expressions (unless it's a zombie poem).
4. Keep it simple at first until you learn to use the AV editing tools well. It can be interesting and have great effect when you learn to do audio mixing with multiple tracks and fading, and then add them to your images or videos. There are a lot of free programs to help you.
5. Last, have fun. I hope we do more of this type of contest.

Most of the entries used Windows Movie Maker to create a video slide show. As I hadn't used this tool before, I decided to make a slide show with one of my poems to see how hard it was. WMM should be available on most Windows PC's and there is a version called Windows Live Movie Maker that comes with the downloadable Windows Live package. This is the one I used.

Basically, you create a new project, edit it and save it as a project, then save it or publish it as a movie. WMM publishes to Facebook, YouTube and several other social media sites. You can publish in HD or SD formats.

When you create a new project, you get a Title frame automatically, black background and white text with a text box that you can type into, resize, and move. You can change the font and font size by clicking on the Text Tools tab and also modify the background color, but you cannot change the text color, I think. To create a new frame, insert an image or video. However, if all you want is text in your frame, you can insert a Credits frame and enter your text without using an image. Repeat for additional frames. If you insert an image, you can then insert a Caption for your text, if desired. Resize the text box and resize your text to an appropriate font size that will fit each line without wrapping. You can move the text box also.

I found that one stanza per frame works best. You are limited to a duration of 30 seconds per frame and it takes about 20 seconds to recite four lines or so including time for transitions between frames.

There are a lot of options for visual effects and transitions. Play around with them. There are multiple sets of these that will show up if you click the dropdown widget on the far right of the list.

I used the Sound Recorder accessory that comes with Windows for my recitation. A much better solution is to use a free program such as Audacity, which gives you much more control and editing capabilities. I found that it worked best if I played the slide show while reciting as I could time my recitation to the slides. I used my headset microphone, which gave better results than the built-in mike. 

You can insert the sound file using the Add Music option. You can select where you want the sound to start and you can use Fade In and Fade Out effects, which I suggest, as there is often a harsh transition to a sound file if you don't. You can insert multiple sound files, but only serially, as WMM doesn't support multiple tracks. You can get around this by using something like Audacity as your sound project tool, which allows you to have multiple voice and music tracks and blend them together with lots of effects.

Here's my recitation. I don't give it high marks, as the poem itself is not an "ear" poem, in my humble opinion, and I certainly don't have the beautiful intonation and cadence that I heard in some of the ones in the contest.

I also looked at how different sites manage your uploaded file. 

YouTube has some editing capabilities when you go to your dashboard and select your video, but I didn't see if it is possible to replace your current video with a new one that you edited offline. Actually I didn't see a way to even delete it, although you can change its security so it's unlisted. You might have to upload a new file to implement changes, and then use the new URL in your poem.

Facebook has no editing capabilities like YouTube, but you can delete a post, then re-post with a new video and use the new URL in your poem. Be sure you make the post publicly available.

DropBox gives you full control in the sense that all you have to do is replace the current file in your DropBox to make an update. You can delete anytime you want to, but in that case remove the URL from your poem, too. This seems to be the easiest way to manage a presentation, IMHO. Right click on the file to share it and copy the URL from the browser address bar.

File Dropper does not require that you sign up to drop a file, but it will delete the file after a certain number of days of inactivity (if it's not downloaded within 7 days, I think). OK for short term, but might be an issue after that.

Hope this helps.

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Date: 4/25/2013 9:01:00 AM
hey roy! thanks for sponsoring this contest. i had been looking for a way to get my little play on the soup, so this was perfect. i listened to all of the other entries that i was able to get (a few didn't work, for some reason) and i did enjoy hearing the poems read aloud. i think the ones with visual accompaniments worked very well, especially the ones with nature or scenery pictures. in my case, it wasn't me reciting my poem, but rather an actor performing it on stage, which may have not really been in the spirit of having the writer read his or her own poem, but i thought that would be acceptable. in any case, i enjoyed the contest! thanks again...
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Date: 4/23/2013 11:44:00 AM
I have mixed feelings when it comes to poetry being read......perhaps it is the sentimental part of me that is transfixed while sitting in the car listening to PBS morning recitations by Garrison Keilor as he reads poetry.....moving me to tears more often than not. So this venue, for me, was so pleasureable,...I loved hearing the author's own voice. I agree that reading a novel, is much more satisfying than seeing the movie version....however some poetry lends itself well to the personal rendition of the writer. Especially narrative least I think so. Interesting to see how each of us see this........but I hope there will be more soupers who try this :)
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kabuteng P.iNk k.
Date: 4/23/2013 12:42:00 PM
"poet itself"? somehow that comes out wrong?? don't mind that pls....
k. Avatar
kabuteng P.iNk k.
Date: 4/23/2013 12:40:00 PM
ah, yes, that was what I was trying to convey, Carrie: 'Personal rendition'! yup, I am too wordy for my own good sometimes... it Is intriguing to hear how the poet itself wants their own poem to be heard...
Date: 4/23/2013 11:02:00 AM
Also, super congrats to all your winners! and thank yo again for doing this contest :D! .
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Date: 4/23/2013 11:00:00 AM
Now sometimes, there are poems which I feel, can be given another dimension if read aloud. I am one who thinks that once a poem is Shared, it is not wholly yours anymore, it is like giving a part of yourself to the reader, since they can interpret it any way they want, read it aloud any way they want...But if you read it, give it an actual voice, there is something more of yourself that you give to it, giving more to the audience to ponder on. I for one, am someone who almost always prefers the book version over the movie version, but sometimes, when it comes to poems, I Do read them aloud, and upon doing so it gives me another layer of that poem to appreciate it with....
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kabuteng P.iNk k.
Date: 4/23/2013 11:00:00 AM
whoops. I know too long-- and going around in circles. sorry for that. I hope I made some sense??? Sorry got a headache...
Date: 4/23/2013 10:49:00 AM
I agree with you on several points that you discussed here, on the "eye" and "ear" poems, as well as the trickiness of doing audio-video presentations-- that's why I am also impressed with those that also made theirs as a video, since there is that line that can be overstepped and overwhelm the poem, being too distracting. I guess it also depends on one's personal preference? Especially if you are auditory, visual or maybe even kinesthetic? I think this also comes into play when one appreciates these types of presentations. My personal opinion about all this is: Reciting your Own poem gives it another dimension... in my case, whenever I write a poem, there is this 'voice' if you will that
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kabuteng P.iNk k.
Date: 4/23/2013 12:37:00 PM
And thank you for reading them, Roy -- yes, I believe that somehow, it still boils down to personal preferences-- that is also why it is so nice to have that option, of being allowed to hear the poems recited, and your contest has helped open that door for those who are interested in doing so or in exploring it, and like Brian, for showcasing it even more....
Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 4/23/2013 11:44:00 AM
Thanks for your extended comments, Nikko, particularly on personal preferences. Personally, I preferred the disembodied voice presentations to the webcam presentations, as I was able to focus better on the poem. Otherwise, there was just too much going on for my eyes to pay attention to. Other folks will likely have a different opinion. Cheers, Roy
k. Avatar
kabuteng P.iNk k.
Date: 4/23/2013 10:51:00 AM
cont'd (arrgh that character limit) -- I "hear" my poem in-- Now, if I am lucky enough, I get to "capture" that voice and reveal it through my words and formatting (this is also why I guess I can be such a Sucker for formatting in my poems-- another topic for discussion, yes I am deviating if I go there!)
Date: 4/23/2013 10:42:00 AM
Thank you So much, Roy for my placement-- I am so honored (and surprised!!) with how I fared, especially alongside people who I admire and also considering that mine didn't have any video/photos included. I have a feeling I might ramble (and Deviate!) here a bit, so please bear with me... Upon seeing your contest, I just knew that I wanted to enter it-- when I was still doing blogs, I had this 'phase' wherein I Really wanted to do audio blogs, was experimenting and stuff (and this included reciting a poem) BUT got a bit discouraged, since during that time, I could't find a good site that I could link on my blog page -- but now, I see there are pretty good sites for this (yay)...cont'd
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Date: 4/23/2013 10:00:00 AM
Thank you Roy for honouring my poem in your very original contest.I'm looking forward to listening to each poet, as you are already aware for me poetry, being structured prose literature is at its pinnacle when spoken aloud . A unique ' now aural experience' between the poet(author) and the listener to create (much like the visual 'now' experience when looking at an original piece of art').It comes alive in the ear so to speak.I wish you well with promoting this aspect here on PS and perhaps TPS might find space for members links to be permanently recorded as a feature..Rgds Brian
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Date: 4/23/2013 7:33:00 AM
Thank you I enjoyed making the video, though i did change from dropper to who are much better. Thank you for the opportunity to hear the other entrants. I have been away, just returned so will listen to them all later....Seren
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Date: 4/22/2013 7:20:00 PM
Congrats to all the winners. This was an interesting theme, and I give HUGE kudos to those who worked so hard putting their presentations together... for some it must have been daunting, not only technologically, but also performance wise. Still, after first reading the poems and then listening to the poems, I found that, if anything, the vocal aspect actually detracted from the poetry. These are good poems, verse that stand well on their own without embellishment. Roy, one of my favourite books of all time happens to be To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, saying that poetry read silently to one's self is missing an element is tantamount to saying that literature is best not read, but heard on tape! Which is ridiculous, right? What is well written requires nothing but the words themselves. Intonation, hesitation, emotion... everything should and can be conveyed by word placement, proper punctuation, verse construction, line breaks and all the wondrous devices that are the true VOICE of poetry. And yet, I loved hearing the voices of my friends, not because it altered my understanding of their poems, but because it moved me to hear their voices, and if they'd been reading grocery lists I'd still have the same feeling, thinking, oh, she is so lovely... I mean no offence. This was a good idea, in the sense that it is a creative exercise in expression. But no, it did not change my opinion. If anything, it confirmed my earlier opinion that poetry is perfect as is: on the page, intensely personal, real and solid without a slideshow in sight. Hugs sent to you... from a lover of poetry. PS-- I've attended many poetry readings, especially for book launches, by some of my poet chums, as well as several local novelists. And I had the same opinion. Their work glimmers on the page. All else is just glazing. ;) PPS- Keep following what you enjoy, keep being passionate about what moves you. Damn the torpedos and damn other opinions, lol, which includes mine! (my father said to me, you're a nut, honey, but a hard one to crack!)
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Date: 4/22/2013 6:34:00 PM
Thank you Roy, for helping to give me a push to venture out "there"..and thanks to Brian Strand......he was the first to share his own, and inspired me. I've since gotten a little braver and and now have 3 you tubes. I've always been a victim of 'stage fright' this was a fun way of sharing behind the 'camera's eye'! lol ! Thanks so much
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Date: 4/22/2013 5:53:00 PM
I found this type of competition to be very gratifying. I never turn down the opportunity to read my own work before a crowd. It always results in personal comments and book sales. I have also had the opportunity to hear students read my work in competition. Eventually, we might pursue this avenue--Soup members reading the work of other members. Some of you have already found my follow-up recitation of "Play It". Thanks to Roy, I'm learning something new. I think a short story may be my next project. And Roy, it might take one Texan to recognize the voice of another. Or, did your world travels cause you to water-down the accent? Thanks for giving us all the chance to learn something new.
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Roy Jerden
Date: 4/23/2013 5:04:00 AM
Thanks, Ray. I kind of cover your question in one of my poems, "Call Me Tex". Best wishes.
Date: 4/22/2013 5:04:00 PM
wow, wow too much to absorb have to come back later! THANKS!! Congrad's all!
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