“The warrior of light sits around a fire with his companions. They talk about his conquests, and any strangers who join the group are made welcome because everyone is proud of his life and of his Good Fight. The warrior speaks enthusiastically about the path, he tells how he resisted a particular challenge or speaks of the solution he found to one especially difficult situation. When he tells stories, he invests his words with passion and romance.
Sometimes, he exaggerates a little. He remembers that at times his ancestors used to exaggerate too.
That is why he does the same thing. But he never confuses pride with vanity, and he never believes his own exaggerations.”
– Manual of the Warrior of Light (Paulo Coelho)
All performers are liars, to some extent. I tell people the reason I choose performance poetry over something like acting (aside from the fact I can’t act) is that poetry is more honest. When you act you are playing a role, you’re being a character that isn’t you. While there is nothing at all wrong with this, I prefer to be more honest. There is always truth in my poetry, whether I’m talking about events that have happened to me, about my opinions on topics or even when telling stories, they’re all driven by my thoughts, feelings and emotions.
But if I were to just recount a story or give you my opinion, what difference would that be from a normal conversation? It would cease to be poetry and instead be some guy on stage talking at people. So as a poet I embellish, I romantacise, I exaggerate. I make the poem more entertaining to the audience, be it funny, serious, heartbreaking or angry.
By the same token, I don’t allow my exaggerations to become too wild, unless of course that’s my specific aim. I make them believable, otherwise they cease to be based in truth and become mere fallacy. I’m not saying this is how all poets should be, but personally I feel once you start doing that you cross over into the realm of a story-teller. For me at least poetry needs to be grounded in some truth, no matter how small.
It also helps give your performance more emotion and passion because it’s something you believe in/have experienced etc. It’s much harder to make an audience feel empathy for you if you’re protraying a lie. Then you fall into the realm of an actor. It’s fine to experiment with it, in fact I plan to write a poem where I portray a character, but that’s only one instance.
Of course I’m generalising here, there are no doubt instances where poets portray a character and I’ve seen many a story-teller do poetry, there are cross overs. But I feel it’s important to establish some roots before you branch out and experiment. Master the basics before attempting to establish your individual style. Usually it will start to show while you’re mastering the basics and giving thought to your performance.
This is just my opinion on the matter anyway, I’m sure many would disagree, in fact I hope they do.