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Barbara Wiedemann reading from Half-Life of Love at BookFest 2009, Montgomery, AL

A poetry reading is a performance of poetry, normally given on a small stage in a café or bookstore, although poetry readings given by notable poets frequently are booked into larger venues (amphitheaters, college auditoriums, etc.) 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."

Though a form of entertainment until around the turn of the previous century, especially in the United States, readings have diminished in popularity over the course of the twentieth century. They have become less a part of the mainstream pop culture, and more identified with a literary fringe. They have remained most popular in large cities and college towns, where the population of artists and poets is larger and more self-sustaining.

One exception, however, is the poetry slam, a competitive format that has become increasingly popular, especially in the United States, since its inception in the 1980s. Much, though not all, of the poetry featured at slams has adapted to a hip-hop sensibility.

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