HOW TO READ YOUR POEM ALOUD
Practice. Read your poem out loud a few times before you read it to people. Experiment with emphasizing particular words. Rehearsing aloud will give you ideas on how to improve a poem, and will alert you to awkward phrasing.
Give the poem space to breathe. Usually, almost always, it's best to read slowly, but even when the spirit of the poem calls for a quicker tempo and a rhythmic drive, don't rush.
Pronounce every syllable of every word. Leave pauses. Poetry is concentrated, and your words need to be mixed with a little silence.
Believe in the poem. Read as if the poem you're reading is the most important thing in the world. Don't apologize. If you are nervous, you can feed on that energy. If I'm not nervous before a reading, I'm in trouble.
Remember that the audience is on your side. Almost always. Accept the energy that the audience is giving you. They want you to be great.
HOW TO LISTEN TO A POEM
Don't worry if you don't get everything. Get into the flow, let the poem wash over you, take you for a ride.
Sometimes a poem will have a line or image that knocks your socks off and suddenly you realize you missed about seven lines because you were too busy thinking about whatever the poem made you think of. No problem - you were probably taking in more than you realize.
It's OK to laugh. Everybody knows this, right? Even serious poems can be funny. Other socially acceptable responses to poetry include clapping, snapping your fingers, and stunned silence.
Be open. Maybe you have a preference for poems that tell stories, or you might look down on poems that rhyme, or whatever. For the moments that you are listening to a poem, please put those opinions aside. Accept each poem on its own terms without getting hung up on whether you like it or whether it's good or bad. Let the poem in.
Be grateful. It's a privilege to hear a poem read aloud, especially by the author. When you listen to a poet reading his or her own work, the emotion and music of the poem come alive in a way that the printed page can't match.
If you end up seeing the universe, or even some small piece of it, in a new way, so much the better. Such an experience is not easy to come by, but it happens at poetry readings.
Bellingham performance poet Kevin Murphy is a regular cast member of the Chuckanut Radio Hour and the author of the poetry collection "A Beautiful Chaos Demands Energy."