Poetry: To Choose One Poem or Several?

Poetry Interpretation is an interesting event in that it is the only one that allows for a competitor to use multiple works to compose their cutting.  This could be due to the issue of length of poetry.  Poems, even some of the longer ones, might not hold a speaker through a full ten minutes.  Whatever the reason, Poetry competitors are given the unique option to either use a super long poem that can survive the ten minute time, or they can choose to use a series of related poems.  Both circumstances provide distinct pros and cons.

Full-length, LONG Poem

  • PRO: Selecting a full length poem makes for a somewhat easier selection process of a piece.  Do you like that one poem?  Yes?  Well, that's all the searching you have!  Piece acquired.  Using one, long poem can also make for simpler interpretation.  You have one piece that tells one, continuous story.  There should be a definite arch, and drive to construct your interpretation around.  You also have fairly consistent tone, rhythm, and language because all the words stem from one person.
  • CON: If the piece needs to be cut for time it might be a headache if the poet uses every line to advance the poem's message.  Cut the wrong stanza and importance could be lost.  Remove a single line and rhythm could be ruined.  Also, keeping the attention of the audience for a ten minute poem could be difficult if your energy wavers.  The tiniest lull in the poem could cause the audience to lose attention, and then when they attempt to become engaged again they may have become too lost to get back into the poem's story.

Several Poems Spliced Together

  • PRO: Selecting several poems to be read together can keep a Poetry piece exciting and energetic.  There is the constant welcome of a new voice, new story (which relates), and new atmosphere.  Plus, if someone was not fully engrossed in one of your poems they may become attached to another.  Further, the concept of being able to combine different poems gives the Poetry competitor a stronger creative license.  You can create an unique story with various patches of tales. 
  • CON: Of course, you can patch all these tales together to create Frankenstein's Monster.  If the selections do not blend together well, if they are in a wacky order, or if they are just poor selections the audience will become uninterested.  There is also the constant pressure of "a new voice, new story...and new atmosphere."  This means more interpretation and analysis, longer research hours for pieces, a harder time cutting a piece and crafting an arch, and there is the chance it might not work.  Ever.

There is no right or wrong method to creating a Poetry cutting.  It all is a matter of preference and doing what works best for your piece.  If this pro/con list has done anything it has shown that Poetry is challenging whichever the path.  The safest gamble is to select Poetry pieces you adore and want to work with.  Choose something you love, and the work will be enjoyable, the end result fantastic.