1. Could you share your thoughts or general philosophy on the oratory presentation of the written word, in the studio or in a public setting. My focus is always on poetry - on reading poetry aloud for an audience. My favorite lament in this regard is captured in this blog post, in which I complain that the poetry community tends to ignore the importance of training the voice/body, as the instrument which animates and delivers poetry for an audience. I am not talking about performance poetry, which is recited from memory and can include significant facial and bodily movement and activity. I am talking about reading poetry for an audience, relying primarily on voice as the vehicle for expression and communication. Voicing a poem for an audience is a qualitatively different (and a higher/better) experience for me than simply reading it visually on the page. I find that preparing to voice and actually voicing a poem for others are additional & separate ways of entering a poem, of gathering information about it. It’s probably connected to making a poem physical, to putting it into your body, as it were, which, if you think about it, is really the rubber-meets-the-road/ground zero of poetry. I really wish we, the poetry community, would pay more attention to this, the physical aspect of our tradecraft (and the focus of Voice Alpha, a blog I write specifically about ‘reading poetry aloud for an audience’). 2. What are some common mistakes often made? In poetry reading there are two, in my view: ‘poet voice,’ which is written about very well here , and my pet peeve, ‘the end of line note’, which I write about here . My thought is that almost anyone can produce a very serviceable reading just by eliminating these two reading habits, which (I can attest from personal experience) are easily corrected once identified and acknowledged. 3. Do you prepare your copy in advance and if so, how? (marking copy etc). I usually do a couple of silent reads to get a sense of the broad reach and intent of a poem and to make sure I know how to pronounce all its words (Howjsay is a wonderful pronunciation assistant, by the way. While I was working through making a recording of H.D’s Helen in Egypt, I found Howjsay even had the majority of the sometimes quite obscure Greek names that abound in that work). Then I record a poem twice in the same sound file, to ensure both recordings have the same audio conditions. Often I might have more than one idea about how to voice a particular word or phrase, and having two recordings allows me to compare different versions and decide which version of different words or phrases fits best overall. My final recordings are usually a combination of those two readings, which I capture and edit in Audacity. I learn through voice and sometimes understand after the first recording that I have got a poem ‘wrong’ and have to start over. I also have to be ‘in good voice’ for recording - can’t be sick with a cold, or have just eaten, or have been drinking wine, for example. For whatever reason, I find that the latter pitches my voice just that much higher and somehow manages to thin it out, which ruins recordings. 4. What mic, software, other equipment do you use? What file types do you work with? (mp3, wav, 44,1 or 48+ etc.) I use Blue Microphones’ Snowball microphone and am very happy with it. My software is the free download Audacity and again, am very happy with it. My file of choice is mp3 and if people send me wav or mp4s or others, I convert them to mp3 for upload to the Poetry Storehouse. I signed up as a volunteer reader at Librivox, a non-profit site which uses volunteer readers to create audio versions of public domain books. Setting up Audacity to meet their technical requirements for recordings and doing a range of fairly random volunteer readings has been an education in itself and I recommend it for anyone looking to get recording experience under their belt. The Poetry Storehouse is also an excellent venue to gain experience with reading poetry for an audience. Both Librivox and the Poetry Storehouse make readings available for listeners or remixers to select or not, as they choose, and no single reading purports to be ‘the’ authoritative reading of any work. So both venues are a kind of ‘no-fault’ environment that allow for maximum learning without possibility of doing lasting harm and with the potential for doing significant aural good. Anyone with no recording experience who would like to give it a try will find some helpful starter tips here. 5. Who do you consider to be among the greatest orators of more recent times? I am going to stick with my focus on poetry reading as I answer this and note that while there are plenty of engaging readers around, no-one ‘great’ (as in ‘great orator’) springs to mind for me, unfortunately. The readers-nic-likes tag at Voice Alpha will take you to the range of readers I have flagged and made notes on at the blog over the past few years. I think they fall into three main groups for me: a. Once a poetry reader has moved away from (or never started in the first place) the twin ills of ‘poet voice’ and ‘end of line note’ mentioned in #2 above, they become part of a population of competent readers who produce pleasant, workmanlike readings that don’t make the listener strain for the sense of a poem through layers of aural make-up. Some of my favorite examples in this category are Carolyn Forche, Joanie Mackowski and Rachel Dacus. b. Then there are readers that present their poem and personality to you as more or less a single thing, and this is much more of an actively delightful and engaging experience. My favorite examples here are Grace Paley and Dylan Thomas. c. Finally, we have a group of what I call 'musical readers' and these are people who seem to hear some definite internal music when they read, and that music manifests itself to the listener through their reading. I think this is a gift and not (alas!) a learnable skill for the rest of us, but I love to listen to these readers. My absolute favorite example is Carl Sandburg (here and here), and you can hear some other examples by clicking on the musical reader tag at Voice Alpha.