Tonality and Poetry

After you’ve listened to two readings of the same poem, one by a performer and the other by the poet herself, below are two questions to answer:

1. What differences did you note between the two readings? Consider aspects of Sound in poetry, such as the tone of the reader’s voice, the rhythm at which they read, and the emphasis being placed on certain words and lines from the poem.

2. Between the two readings, which did you prefer and why? Remember, just because the poet reads the poem doesn’t mean that’s the definitive way to read it. Sometimes the voice of the poet won’t match what the poem is about or what the poem is trying to convey.

For each question your response should be 250 words, making a total of 500 words for this assignment.

The Poem as an Oral Form

Another thing to consider about Poetry is the aspect of Sound. In a poem, Sound is an extension of Language, where the words aren’t just a means of communication, it’s also treated like music.

Poetry was originally an oral form that existed long before the written word and so how a poem was read and how it sounded was very important.

A good example of this are folk songs, which were a way of transmitting stories from one generation to the next, because they were easy to remember and served as a form of entertainment. Poetry is an extension of the traditional song, which was written in verse and with a meter, sometimes even with a rhyme scheme.

Though this tradition has since been lost, now that everything is written and archived and so there’s no need to actually use our brains to remember things, Poetry retains its musical roots and is an art of language that begs to be heard.

So, try reading poems out loud, because in the same way that seeing a performance of a play (ie Dutchman) can change its meaning, when a poem is read out loud or actually heard, it’s meaning can also change. In fact, you might understand the poem better when you hear it read out loud.

Below is a reading of Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” by another poet, Alyssa Paul. This should illustrate how a reading of a poem can change your understanding of it. Regarding this video, you only need to watch up until 3:40. After watching it, ask yourself how the poem’s meaning changed for you after hearing it read aloud.

Classic Slam 2012: “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

The Poet’s Reading

Now that you’ve heard and seen Alyssa Paul’s reading of Sylvia Plath’s poem, let’s now listen to Sylvia Plath read her own poem and compare the two. What differences to you note between Paul’s and Plath’s reading?

Daddy–Read By Sylvia Plath

Last Updated on November 24, 2021

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