The educational value of reciting poetry can be somewhat compared to that of public speaking or debate classes. Although sometimes thought of as pretentious and flowery in today’s society, poetry is an invaluable tool for building confidence, honing dramatic and body language skills, and improving speech inflection and enunciation. The benefits of reading poetry aloud to friends or an audience can especially help nervous speakers overcome their fear, since poetry is more informal that a rigidly structured or serious speech.
Poetry allows the reader/speaker to be expressive, because emotion is an unavoidable element in almost all forms of poetry. Thus, the emotions must be emphasized by speech and not read in a flat manner. Although it may seem challenging or strange at first to those who have never read poetry aloud, the challenge to convey the proper emotions will build confidence over time. The key is to recite poems that contain feelings or messages that you can personally relate to- the genuine emotion and connection to what is being read will show through facial expression and body language.
Honing Dramatic and Body Language Skills
Again, the emotional aspect of the majority of poetry will require a certain degree of “acting out.” It is a natural inclination for most people to impart a certain amount of theatricality into their readings, be it simply emphasizing their words with hand movements, nodding their head, or raising their voice at certain points in the reading. This practice, repeated until refined, may help develop acting skills or dramatic timing; because of this, it is useful for supplementing dramatic or theatre studies. Poetry and the theatre go hand-in-hand for a reason.
Improving Speech Inflection and Enunciation
Reciting metered or freestyle poetry is also beneficial in aiding speech inflection. Since most of the ending words and certain syllables hold importance to the structure of the poem, the speaker must read them a certain way for emphasis. The practice of inflecting and emphasizing syllables requires proper tone differentiations and clarity of speech. The flow or breaks of the poem must be maintained by proper deference to implied tones or structures found within the words and structure.
Helpful for Those with a Fear of Public Speaking
Because of the creative and expressive freedom imparted by reciting poetry, many new speakers find it a helpful supplement to building speech skills. Poetry is more a matter of emotion more than any other factor- you are not trying to convey a specific point or agenda in a formal manner; you are given the simple task to gracefully act through the poem and show genuine emotion in your reading. The pressure to present a perfect reading is lessened. Once poetry recitations are mastered, public speaking will be a breeze.