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How to Use Poetry to Communicate In a Way That Connects With Your Audience

Poetry Connects With Your Voice Because It Connects Your Head to Your Heart. This Is Key to Connecting With Your Audience

Photo by Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Poetry is a unique and dynamic way of getting back to the vocal pathway of instinctive expression through simple, practical actions that can empower you with the ability to communicate in a way that connects with your audience. Great communicators have always known the elemental role of communicating is connecting with their audience.

But are great communicators born with those inherent skills, or is it necessary to practice and develop techniques? The age-old nature versus nurture argument around trusting nature and acting by instinct as opposed to precision techniques and clear understanding to liberate hidden possibilities to learn the hard task of being true to the instinct of the moment.

The late Cicely Berry (renowned for her work as voice coach and director of the RSC) based her work on the conviction that while all is present in nature, our natural instincts have been crippled from birth by many external influences and society at large. She said: “That while there is no one right way to speak, there are a million wrong ways that constipate feeling, constrict activity, blunt expression, level out idiosyncrasy, generalise experience, and coarsen intimacy.”

So the work is about setting the voice free because life in the voice springs from emotion, and speaking is part of a whole: an expression of inner life and awakening deep experiences which are seldom evoked in everyday speech.

The voice is the means by which, in everyday life, you communicate, and through, of course, how you present yourself — while your posture, movement, dress and involuntary gesture — gives an impression of your personality, it is your voice, and the words you use that convey your precise thoughts and feelings.

Poetry in voice is an exciting way to explore moods in tone and voice to tell an emotional story and build confidence to speak in a way that connects more deeply with your audience. Poetry presents a wide range of learning opportunities to include:

Offering examples of mastery of language and stocking the mind with images and ideas expressed in unforgettable words and phrases;

Training and developing emotional intelligence;

Reminding us that language is holistic and that how something is said is part of what is being said: the literal meaning of words is only part of their whole meaning, which is also expressed through tone of voice, inflection, rhythm.

An Assignment To Help You Understand Poetry and the Poet:

1. Find passages in poems that you find striking or memorable;

2. Research when the poet wrote the poem and under what circumstances;

3. Read the poem over and over; this will help you to see more in the poem than you did at first reading;

4. Try to feel the emotions behind the poem: sad, happy, exciting, anxious etc. let it sink in your mind and your heart;

5. Try reading the poem from the poet’s eye and try to pick out key lines that express the poet’s message that they’re trying to get across and put yourself in their shoes.

A wonderful example is this short excerpt from The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde in which he poignantly contrasts the beauty and appreciation of everyday life and activities in the face of looming death:

“I never saw sad men who looked

With such a wistful eye

Upon that little tent of blue

We prisoners called the sky,

And at every careless cloud that passed

In happy freedom by.” The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde.

An Assignment To Help You Understand How You Can Use The Principles of Poetry in your Communication To Connect With Your Audience

1. Consider what mood is evoked in the poem that you find striking or memorable;

2. Consider how this is accomplished;

3. Consider the ways in which not only the meaning of words but also their sound and the poem’s rhythms help to create its mood:

4. Imagine situations in which those passages might be put to use, whether to console, encourage, taunt, flatter, or otherwise make an impact on the listener;

5. Write a short story, letter, or talk in which at least three passages can be quoted effectively to move another character or the listener/recipient;

6. Speak the words aloud, listen to the sound, like music, feel the rhythm and flow.

Remember, poetry is meant to talk about heart and feeling and uses language in an unusual way and may use unusual words. Savour this.

Poetry goes further than connecting with your voice because it connects your head to your heart. It’s a unique and dynamic way of getting back to the vocal pathway of instinctive expression through simple, practical actions that can empower you with the ability to communicate in a way that resonates with your audience.

Thoughts and lessons in this story have been adapted from and inspired by the work of Cecily Berry and Living Poetry /Poetry in Voice.

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Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O' Reilly

WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer. Telling people’s powerful stories of WorkLife struggles and successes. Author of School Of WorkLife Books.

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