Page, or Stage – What’s the Difference?
Page poets generally come from the academic side, who, according to a blog by Nic Sabastian, "tend to be better writers, in that they tend to be better read and more aware of the tradition they’re working in." (The Best American Poetry). Their goal is to be published in journals, magazines, anthologies, and other print media. Not all who write for the page are good at reciting or performing their poetry. In fact, some are awful at it!
Performance poets, on the other hand, write or compose poetry for the purpose of performing in front of a live audience -- at poetry readings, open mikes, slams and other types of venues. But performance poets are challenged, too. Their work is compromised when rhythm and repetition predominate over substance, or in jazz poetry, for example, when the music fights with the poem instead of being an integral part of it.
But Some Poets Can Do Both.
As noted in Sabastian's blog, there are some poets who forcefully deliver their poems whether written for performance or not. He cites a poem by Carolyn Forche that is recited, and another one that he describes as a “wonderful reading, in which she is straight reading and doesn’t even look up from the page.” He uses Patti Smith’s work (recitation, reading) to make a similar comparison.
Truth is, Both Types of Poet Can Learn From Each Other.
Those who write for publication would do well to read their poetry aloud, if only to themselves. Hearing it aloud can uncover awkward phrasing, slack lines, or other elements that are a drag on the poem. Page poets should not be intimidated by performance poets. Even a quieter intimate poem can be compelling. Poems that lose something by being read loudly or boisterously still work if read with the help of a microphone.
Similarly, performance poets can enrich their poems by paying attention to the richness of the language in addition to repetition, rhythm, and various word plays. If a poem goes thud! on the page, it won't have the same integrity as a poem that does. And a poem that's more about sound than sense wears thin pretty quickly.
All of this is encouraging, since it may challenge poets in new ways creatively, as well as provide them with another way to hone their craft. Anyway, that's how I see it. I'd love to hear what you have to say about it!