Mike Agranoff is a singer/songwriter who also creates long, story recitations. His advice is as follows: Dont read the work. Memorize it and deliver it
without notes. It frees you up for better eye contact and direct communication with the listener. At the very least learn it to the point where you only have to refer to notes briefly.
This advice may be hard to follow for someone like Les Barker who carries around his 67 chapbooks filled with what are probably more than 1,000 poems; however if your general performance repertoire is
substantially smaller than his, you might consider it for the reasons that Mike Agranoff listed.
On the other hand, theres always an opposing view. Peter Berryman says, Dont worry about memorizing. We use our stage songbook always, on a music stand in front of us, and receive very few
complaints. From what Ive seen, poets dont memorize but read from their books. I dont know why songwriters dont do this more often. Of course, ideally its better to memorize
everything, and after many performances we find we have memorized most lyrics in spite of ourselves. We rarely glance down at our book, except when performing new works. But long ago we decided it was either use
a book or spend the rest of our lives detasselling corn.
Contemplating a lifetime of detasseling corn could probably contribute toward turning anyone into a great poet/songwriter. Is that how Robert Burns managed?