How to Recite a Poem

Reciting a poem entails more than simply reading aloud the lines and stanzas. Your evidence of understanding, dramatic appropriateness, voice and articulation and physical presence all influence the way your audience receives the poem you’re reciting. Studying each poem beforehand can help you determine the best approach for recitation.

Understanding the Work

You must demonstrate understanding of a poem to be able to recite it properly. First, identify the poem type. Ballads are poems that tell folk tales or legends and are generally written to be sung, whereas epics are serious poems that tell the story of a hero. Ballads, therefore, are more likely to be recited in a lyrical manner, with an emphasis on harmony, and epics can be portrayed in a dissonant way. Next, examine the subject of the poem. A ballad about love will have a different tone than one about death. Determine the author’s attitude toward the subject, as that, too, will affect the manner in which the poem should be recited. Reread the poem many times until you have a complete grasp of its essence. Look up any words you don’t understand and look for any patterns in the poem.


Memorize the poem, as this is essential to reciting it naturally. If you’re a verbal-linguistic learner, try copying the poem by hand many times to internalize it. Then, try writing the poem from memory. Read the poem aloud to yourself. Not only will this help you commit it to memory, but it can help you determine the rhythm it should have. If you’re more of a visual-spatial learner, consider conjuring up images in your mind to go along with lines of the poem to help you remember it.


One of the most difficult aspects of reciting a poem is deciding whether a line break denotes a pause or not. Knowing the different types of pauses can help you decide when to pause. For instance, grammatical pauses are dictated by punctuation, such as a comma or period. Emotional pauses and dramatic pauses are used to give emotional and dramatic effects. Understanding the content of a poem helps you understand how and when to pause. Poems are made up of metrical feet, which consist of two, three or four syllables. Metrical pauses occur when part of a foot or a whole foot is missing in a poem. Some websites feature videos and audio recordings of poets reciting poems; consider using these resources to see and hear how other poets interpret and recite the poem.


To portray a strong presence, relax and be natural. Don’t rush through the recitation, but don’t speak so slowly that the poem sounds unnatural. Let the poem’s tone and structure guide you. Articulate the poem thoroughly, pronouncing each work clearly and correctly. When reciting rhymed poems, don’t do so in a sing-song manner. Make sure you use the appropriate volume, but don’t confuse projection with yelling. For instance, raise or lower the volume of your voice for emphasis or dramatic effect when necessary, but always make sure to project to the entire audience.

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