A poetry reading is a public oral recitation or performance of poetry. A public reading is typically given on a small stage in a café or bookstore, although reading by prominent poets frequently are booked into larger venues such as amphitheaters and college auditoriums, to accommodate crowds. Unless otherwise indicated in advance, poetry readings almost always involve poets reading their own work or reciting it from memory—the recitation of a work by another poet is normally the act of a well-known poet who chooses to read a few poems by lesser-known poets or old friends that the poet feels should be more widely recognized. Poetry readings often involve several readers (often called "featured poets" or "featureds"), although normally one poet is chosen as a "headliner."
According to John Hollander, "All poetry was originally oral, it was sung or chanted; poetic form as we know it is an abstraction therefrom when writing replaced memory as a way of preserving poetic utterances, but the ghost of oral poetry never vanishes." 
American poet Donald Hall described the increase in emphasis on public readings of poetry in a 2012 New Yorker magazine blog post where he recounted it a phenomenon that grew in the last half of the twentieth century. Hall wrote: "It used to be that one poet in each generation performed poems in public. In the twenties, it was Vachel Lindsay, who sometimes dropped to his knees in the middle of a poem. Then Robert Frost took over, and made his living largely on the road." When he began to be invited to do public readings, he "supposed that poetry readings were some sort of fad, like cramming into phone booths; I would enjoy it as long as it lasted." Hall notes that with the increase in readings, poetry began to change and be focused too much on sound, cautioning "In concentrating on sound, as in anything else, there are things to beware of. Revising a poem one morning, I found myself knowing that a new phrase was repellent, but realized it would pass if I intoned it out loud. Watch out. A poem must work from the platform but it must also work on the page.".
A poetry slam is a competitive format that has become increasingly popular, especially in the United States, since its inception in the 1980s. Much of the poetry featured at slams has adapted to a hip-hop sensibility.
- Hollander, John Rymes Reason - A Gude to English Verse, Yale University Press, New Haven 1981 ISBN 978300043075
- Hall, Donald. "Thank You Thank You", The New Yorker, 26 October 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
- Video showcase recorded at poetry readings in Southern California, on the Poetry.LA website
- Video showcase recorded at poetry readings in Vancouver, BC, Canada, on the Poemdroids Only official website
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