I can recite from Tidal Fury for about an hour. Why have I undertaken to memorize my poetry? Originally, I had intended to memorize the whole book to have full access for any readings or open mics, but haven't gotten there yet. Memorizing is a good exercise for an aging mind. Being able to perform poems lets me connect to the audience. I have no acting experience and have never studied acting and so I wing it. I have no idea if these performances work for people or not.
Memorizing remains hard work, especially as the poems have to be duplicated exactly in the mind and retrieved in their all their convoluted syntaxes and words. Being untrained, when my mind collides a little, and I can't get the line, I simply stop and wait for the words to click in and then I continue. This doesn't bother me a bit - it's part of the process of a live enactment. About the only impediment I've found is when I am nervous I might skip a line. I also switch words with synonyms occasionally, and these are unconscious replacements. I only know due to videoing my readings and find this an interesting quirk of the way the mind retains a list of synonyms to use if the exact word is not recalled quickly enough.
I love hearing poets read their writing and have always enjoyed going to poetry readings - in fact, I've run a poetry series for 3½ years. In my community, there are some poets who memorize and perform their poetry - they are not slam poets, which is a different genre and the poems have rhyme and tend follow a format with a set rhythm to the spoken word which makes it quite different to a literary poet performing a piece. The literary poets I know who perform are marvellous, and I find I 'hear' their poetry with perhaps more texture and depth when they offer it directly to us, but they either have acting backgrounds or studied acting in university.
Sometimes I'm not sure what I'm doing. Without the feedback loop a director or teacher would give, I send what I do out into the darkened fields of the audience. I like to dress the part too - mask, snaky wig, gauze sack, kimono, jingly belly dancing belt. It may be that performance gives me a way to inhabit the writing, to hide in it. As an introvert, performing forces me into my opposite. The next day I am exhausted - the act of performing publicly is one of the hardest things I have ever done.
And yet I keep exploring it and pushing myself to go deeper, to enter the writing, to give to those listening from fragile and open and honest places within. I feel that exploring memorization and performance is a fruitful endeavour and I will continue to expand my comfort zones in this regard.
A collusion of forces left me in a private place of extreme worry and tiredness the day that I did the hour-long feature* and yet I strove to put aside my life, to step onto the stage as if it were a blank canvas, and create a poetry that carried itself through the air into the theatre and here, on the screen.
I hope I have done Tidal Fury justice. *You'll find the video with the hour-long performance I did at my Poetry and Music Salons in April 2017 on my Tidal Fury page and in the group of Tidal Fury performance videopoems above.