One of the most self-indulgent things I love to do is read out loud. I do it sometimes just to hear my own voice. When no one is in the house but me and the cat, I take my favorite books and pace around the living room reading as though I had an audience hanging on my every word. This takes reading and writing out of the realm of a purely mental exercise and makes it a multi-sensual experience, engaging the ears, the breath, the voice, and even the full body as I pace, book in hand.
My poetry teacher in college said that at the end of each semester, after all the finals were taken and graded, she would go back to her apartment alone and read all of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl out loud. Personally, I love to read from ee cummings’s i: six nonlectures, but also anything by Ginsberg or the other beat poets works really well. I enjoy the sound of my own voice, the way words have a different effect hanging in the air and echoing off the walls than they do just lying there on the page. Furthermore, with a poet like cummings, hearing the words out loud makes them make more sense to me.
This week, take one of your favorite books and start reading out loud. Not sure where to start? Try anything by Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein. Maybe a favorite spiritual reading or a speech by someone you admire. Or use your own writing — reading your work out loud is a great way to figure out where the little phrasing snags are and smooth out your rhythm.
Luxuriate in the sound of your own voice. Feel the power of the spoken word. Notice whether you seem to take on the qualities of the author or narrator you’re speaking for. When I do this, my cat always comes to listen, and he expresses a clear preference for certain poets — he hates Marianne Moore, or at least the way I read her, but he rather enjoys Sylvia Plath.