What is more wonderful than being read aloud to? Someone asked this question at a potluck supper I was taking part in. The hostess was Claire, one of my dog walker friends. She’s of Italian descent and loves to entertain. So she invited us over for an evening of wine, delicious food, and stories. Amazing what you’ll hear when you get together with a group of acquaintances you enjoy being with but don’t know very well.
One guest, Will, told the story of how narrowly escaping 9/11 changed his life. That day, for some reason he still can’t explain, he decided to take a slightly later train and was turned back just as the first tower fell. He lost dozens of colleagues that day and decided to make a huge shift in his life based on what was truly important to him. It was a rivetting story that made everyone at the table pause and take stock of our own lives.
Then, almost as if she had anticipated what Will was going to tell us, Claire wrapped up the evening by reading aloud two poems by Mary Oliver, one of her favorite writers. They were beautiful and poignant. Andrea, one of the guests, said, “I just love being read to. What’s more wonderful than someone reading aloud to you?” We all nodded. The air hung magically above us, filled with the beautiful words that we had just heard.
It made me think back to times my Mom used to read to us. How we loved to hear her voice acting out the parts and bringing a story to life! It was thrilling. The words leaped off the page and into the air. That’s why poetry is so captivating: it’s made to be read aloud. My playwrighting coach once advised us to read poetry every day. If we absorbed its rhythms and patterns, he believed it would improve our writing. After tonight, I think I’m going to take his advice and bring more poetry into my life. And I’m going to read it out loud and let the words flow over and through me.
Perhaps you might want to try it and see if it helps your writing as well.