The essential point about these first readings, both silent and aloud, is that as any good poem is inexhaustible, we should treat our initial meeting with it as an introduction. If we can absorb something of the poem’s meaning and tone, that is a sufficient beginning. A poem that revealed all of itself on the first reading would be a very shallow work. Reading aloud recognises that poets want their works to be heard. A slower process than reading silently, it encourages us to savour the words - their sounds as much as their sense. These qualities, in fact, are usually intimately related. Poetry began as an oral art where rhythm and rhyme assisted memory in the preservation of poets’ works. Today, we most often encounter poetry in printed form, yet even contemporary poets who know that their poems will be presented in that medium, write with their ears attuned to the sounds of their speech and the voice of their poetry. This is evident if we look closely at their use of language. The aural appeal of words is not cultivated by poets for its own sake. The characteristics of the sounds of language reveal its meanings, just as groupings of words, phrases and stanzas contribute to the subtleties of thought and emotion that even an apparently straightforward lyric may convey.
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