Reading - the first few seconds
I handed out a poem and after 10
seconds asked them to turn the page over and say what had passed through their
mind in that time. I also asked them what they
could remember about the piece. Did they read the title? Did they look
at the author's name? One person had started at the title and was
halfway through the piece when I interrupted. Another did more or less what
I do: a 2 second skim to take in the length, form and nature of vocabulary,
then (depending on my mood, and the form of the poem) reading through from
the top, or looking at random stanzas and the final stanza before attempting
a full read.
Two issues to point out are that
- editors sometimes only have 10 seconds if that to decide whether a poem
deserves a 2nd reading. If poets are sending material out they should
consider what initial impact their work has.
- The initial reading strategy will vary according to the reader's purpose
(enjoyment, selecting for a magazine) but I think it should also vary
according to the type of poem. Some people seem to read every poem
in the same way: from beginning to end - only the speed depending on
the poem. It might be useful to suggest that people try out different
ways of reading.
Reader response theory (from the Voice of the Shuttle).
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Tim Love, August 1999 (from an idea suggested by Helena Nelson).