Performing Poetry Workshop with Karen De Mauro


POEM 1: THERE WAS A CHILD WENT FORTH by Walt Whitman (Section)

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,

And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white and red 
clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird, . . .


POEM 2: WALT WHITMAN BATHING by David Wagoner (Full Poem)

 After his stroke, he would walk into the woods
On sunny days and take off all his clothes
Slowly, one plain shoe
And one plain sock at a time, his good right hand
As gentle as a mother’s, and bathe himself
In a pond while murmuring
And singing quietly, splashing awhile
And dabbling at his ease, white hair and beard
Afloat and still streaming
Down his white chest when he came wading ashore
Naked and quivering.  Then he would pace
In circles, sometimes dancing
A few light steps, his right leg leading the way
Unsteadily but considerately for the left
As if with an awkward partner.

He seemed oblivious to passersby
As he was to his bare body, which was no longer
A nursery for metaphors
Or a banquet hall for figures of self-praise
But a bedroom on a modest bed in that bedroom
Or the covers on that bed
In need of airing out in the sunlight.
He would sit down on the bank and stare at the water

For an hour as if expecting                                                                                         
Something to emerge, some new reflection
In place of the old.  Meanwhile, he would examine
The postures of wildflowers,
The workings of small leaves, holding them close
To his pale eyes while mumbling inaudibly.
He would dress then, helping
His left side with his right as patiently
As he might have dressed the wounded or the dead,
And would lead himself toward home like a dear companion.


POEM 3: #443 (I tie my Hat ) by Emily Dickinson (Section)

I tie my Hat — I crease my Shawl —
Life’s little duties do — precisely —
As the very least
Were infinite — to me —

I put new Blossoms in the Glass —
And throw the old — away —
I push a petal from my Gown
That anchored there — I weigh
The time ’twill be till six o’clock —
And yet — Existence — some way back —
Stopped — struck — my ticking — through—  . . .

Therefore — we do life’s labor —
Though life’s Reward — be done —
With scrupulous exactness —
To hold our Senses — on —


POEM 4: GOD’S GRANDEUR by Gerard Manley Hopkins (Full poem)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
        It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
        It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
        And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
        And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
        There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
        Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — 
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
        World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


POEM 5: CONTINUE by Maya Angelou (Full Poem)

My wish for you
Is that you continue


To be who and how you are
To astonish a mean world
With your acts of kindness


To allow humor to lighten the burden
Of your tender heart


In a society dark with cruelty
To let the people hear the grandeur
Of God in the peals of your laughter


To let your eloquence
Elevate the people to heights
They had only imagined


To remind the people that
Each is as good as the other
And that no one is beneath
Nor above you


To remember your own young years
And look with favor upon the lost
And the least and the lonely


To put the mantle of your protection
Around the bodies of
The young and defenseless


To take the hand of the despised
And diseased and walk proudly with them
In the high street
Some might see you and
Be encouraged to do likewise


To plant a public kiss of concern
On the cheek of the sick
And the aged and infirm
And count that as a                                                                                            
Natural action to be expected


To let gratitude be the pillow
Upon which you kneel to
Say your nightly prayer
And let faith be the bridge
You build to overcome evil
And welcome good


To ignore no vision
Which comes to enlarge your range
And increase your spirit


To dare to love deeply
And risk everything
For the good thing


To float
Happily in the sea of infinite substance
Which set aside riches for you
Before you had a name


And by doing so
You and your work
Will be able to continue



Will the lines be six feet apart?
Will these hexameters be heroic like Homer’s?
(Will) (each) (word) (have) (to) (be) (masked) (?)
Will there be poetry insecurity?
Will there be enough poetry to go around?
Will poems be our preferred form of travel?
Will we undertake odysseys searching for Ithacas inside us?
Will poetry go viral?
Will dis/ease infect us?
Will it help build up antibodies against indifference?
Will poems be the only safe places where we can gather together:
    enter their immense silences,
    see snakes slithering inside sestinas,
    listen to nightingales singing on the boughs of odes— 
    hark! a lark in the terza rima,
    a hawk in a haiku?                                                                              
What if only poetry will see us through?
What if this poem is the vaccine already working inside you?               



It begins with a season, which,
for want of a better word,
we might as well call, September.
It begins with a glen.
Try to see it. 
Not with your eyes
For they are wise
But see it with your ears
And hear with the inside of your hand
That soundless sound
of shadows flicking light
Celebrate sensation!
You’ve been there – you remember
that spot beside the clover
where someone’s hand held your hand
when you hid away in shadows
from the tyranny of time
and love was sweeter than the honey
or the berries
or the stinging taste of mint.


POEM 8: I GO AMONG TREES by Wendell Berry (Full Poem)

 I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes                                                                      
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.


POEM 9: #17 (I never saw a moor—) by Emily Dickinson (Full Poem/Edited Version)

I never saw a moor —
I never saw the sea —
Yet know I how the heather looks
And what a wave must be

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven —

Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given —





An important resource for technical concerns and presentation skills on a rudimentary level.  Because the site is intended for high school contestants, rather than professional poets, some of the information does not apply to performing your own (or others’) work in public forums.  But the samples of (some of the) actors reading poetry, and the info in the ”Poems and Performance” section provide a useful reference base from which to make your own decisions about how you want to present.

One of the best series ever created about living the life of poetry, with interviews, readings, and performances from many notable poets.

Krista Tippett frequently interviews poets, (Mary Oliver, Marie Howe, and dozens more) in her NPR Broadcasts.  Just go on to the “On Being “ website and search “Episodes” for conversations with poets. (Type in the poet’s name to find an auditory podcast and/or transcript.)

Poets House is a treasure trove of poetry, from first editions to collections, biographies, journals, letters, and good workshops and events.  Located at 10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282; Phone: (212) 431-7920, it is well worth a day’s field trip to use their free library in its beautiful location on the Hudson River

The “Poetry In America” series that airs on PBS, hosted by Elisa New is an excellent series of interviews with poets, civic leaders, students, and teachers. Each episode examines one poem by the featured poet, examines craft and content issues, and is accompanied by beautiful graphics and sound.

Jane Hirshfield, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), 2017. See also Hirshfield’s Nine Gates.  Hirshfeld is a wonderful presenter of her own work, (at The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival), a gracious host and introducer of other poets’ work, and a fine analyzer of what makes poems resonate.

David Hinton, The Wilds of Poetry: Adventure in Mind and Landscape, (Boulder: Shambhala). David’s distinctly Eastern approach presents an intriguing way to be present in words and in stillness in public

Request “Performing Poetry” Materials, and Directions for Specific Exercises by filling in your information on the contact page. Specify the craft area (i.e., ”Reading for Sense”) you want.