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For National Poetry Month 2016 I salute an underrated device, the epigraph, “a motto or quotation, as at the beginning of a literary composition, setting forth a theme” (Epigraph, 2011). How do we attribute such a quote when performing a poem orally?
Hamilton College (n.d.) offers tips on citing sources in oral presentations, yet a poetry reading is not an academic conference. We could include the attribution in a chapbook or broadside, but such items change hands at some, not all, open mics. When I read a poem with an epigraph, I name the author of the quote and sometimes give the title of the source (if it is not cumbersome). I can give interested listeners fuller information afterward.
The point is to attribute the quote in a way appropriate to the setting. The ACRL Framework makes a similar point (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2015, Information Creation as a Process section and Information has Value section).
An epigraph is not exclusive to poetry. Still, its use in a poetry performance models how we solve an information problem.
Association of College & Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved from
ACRL website : http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework
Epigraph. (2011). In The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved from
Hamilton College, Department of Rhetoric and Communication, Oral Communication Center. (n.d.). Using citations and avoiding plagiarism in oral presentations. Retrieved