Historically, what roles have poets and musicians played in their cultures?
Why did these poets and musicians memorize their poems and set them to music?
Have you ever seen a poet read poems? Have you ever seen a poet recite poems from memory? What were your impressions of the differences between reading and recitation?
POETRY LESSON #12: Valuing the history of oral performance
Consider different types of poet performers in western cultures and cultures around the world: psalmist, harper, lyricist, chorus, vates, scop, troubadour, maker, sonneteer …
Choose at least one type of poet performer from the past. Research the role of the poet performer in the relevant historical, cultural, and literate contexts. Write a one-page summary of your discoveries, including comments on how you find your new knowledge relevant to your own poetic development and craft.
Make it your goal to memorize and dramatically perform a poem by a poet-performer from the past. Make it your goal to memorize and dramatically perform one of your own poems.
Ancient Israel – psalmist – David, et alia!
Classical Greece – harper – Homer’s Demodokos
Classical Greece – lyricist – Sappho and Pindar
Classical Greece – chorus – Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides
Rome – vates – Virgil’s Sybil
Anglo-Saxon England – scop – Beowulf
Medieval France – troubadours
Late-Medieval England – maker – Chaucer
(Renaissance) England – sonneteer – Shakespeare, Donne, Edna St. Vincent Millay
Write a poem intended for oral performance. The lines should have a consistent cadence, and you should pay particular attention to the sound of the words you choose in each line, as well as the rhyme scheme. You may wish to model one of your poems on the work of one of the poet performers you learned about in your research.
You have begun to think about the role of poets and musicians in their cultures. Now specifically consider the ethical responsibilities poets may have in their communities in the world.