Home Articles / Poems Guide to writing and performing Spoken Word Poetry

Guide to writing and performing Spoken Word Poetry


by: Lara Langworthy

Brief Introductory Section: Spoken word poetry is the bringing life to poetry through performance. By performing poetry you are giving it a much more affective meaning and much stronger influence. In spoken word poetry all the elements of performance (voice tone, pauses, eye contact, gestures etc…) are combined to give a poem the deepest influence possible. Anyone who has a message, experience etc… and wishes to share that message/experience can write and perform spoken word poetry. Spoken word poetry is meant for people to be able to influentially present their message. So as would be assumed, there must be an equal emphasis put on the performance of the poetry, as there is the writing of the poetry, in order for the poetry to be properly done.

Major parts of spoken word poetry:

Keys to Writing:

3 main elements within in the writing (three R’s of writing poetry):

1.Rhyme-The use of the same of similar sounds at the end of your sentences. Aids in the clearness of the poem and is recommended but not 100% necessary.

2. Rhythm-Is putting different amount of stress on different syllables. Helps the poem to flow and keep a steady beat. This is significant in poetry because poetry is so emotionally charged.

3. Repetition- Audience stays more focused on the point you are trying to communicate if you gradually use repetition within our poem (repeating certain phrases or words throughout poem).

Keys to Performing the poetry:

1.      Pauses-Pause are at least half a second each time a new line begins at the left margin and for at least 2 seconds when there is a dot separating lines.

2.      Pace-Your pace should be that of someone telling a story without any script.

3.      Pitch, Rate, and Volume-Should vary within your poem. Your voice should be used to put emphasis on different words. Make sure you do not speak too fast for pitch and volume are able to vary a lot more when you speak more slowly.

4.      Facial expressions-Should have different faces for different feelings and moods (happy, sad, confused, etc…)

5.      Eye contact-By making direct eye contact with audience at certain parts of poem you put more emphasis on those parts.

6.      Body language and gestures-There are different body languages with different moods that you may wish to display within you poem. For example, if you are showing sadness you would have a slumping posture. Gestures, especially with your hands, also aid in putting stress on certain parts of the poem.

 Step-By-Step Instructions on How to Create Genre:

Writing the poem:

1.      Find something you are passionate about or feel the need to express. Topics can range along a broad spectrum (love, politics, personal experiences, religion etc…)

2.      Begin to write the thoughts you want to be displayed out on paper.

3.      Once you know what you want to express and have written your thoughts on paper, begin to mold it into stanzas. A stanza can be defined as two or more lines that together form one of the divisions of a poem.

4.      As you form your stanzas keep in mind that stanzas usually are similar in length and follow the same pattern of meter and rhyme. 

5.      The poem can be as long or short as you wish. You may use relatively any kind of grammar you wish. * Note-this is your poem and your expressions so therefore it is up to you as to how you want it to be written as long as it flows and is not too wordy.

6.      Write you poem so that it will have a great flow and rhythm when it is performed.

Performing the Poem:

1.      Begin by repeatedly reading your poem out loud. By doing this you will be able to naturally get a feeling for the rhythm of your poem.

2.      Keep reading it out loud until you feel that you have a firm grasp on the feeling you wish to display through your poem. This also helps you find any errors in your writing such as errors in rhythm or rhyme.

3.      As you read out loud, note the places where there needs to be pauses. Pauses catch the audiences’ attention.

4.      Note the proper pace of the poem. Mark which parts of the poem need to be said slower and vice versa.

5.      Analyze when proper pitch, rate, and volume of voice is needed. It is important to get a feel for when to increase the emotion in your voice so as to make your poem as influential as possible.

6.      As reading poem out loud, practice showing feelings through different parts of your body. Hand motions, facial expressions, eye contact, and gestures are ways to show importance in certain parts of poem.

7.      Continue to read poem out loud. Begin to perform it to friends, family, smaller groups of people etc…

8.      Once performance of poem has been perfected it is ready to come to life and be performed.


-Even though you are free to write as long of a poem as you want, I would recommend that you do not make it too long. It can get to wordy and cause you to lose your audience.

-There are a lot of important parts to performing poetry. Make sure you do not “over perform”. You do not want to use too much volume or too much body language and gestures. If you over use these parts they will loose their effectiveness.

-When you are performing, always keep in the back of your mind the main thing you are trying to communicate to your audience.

-Make sure you are completely comfortable with performing your poem before you perform it for you audience. Make sure you have practiced it till you are blue in the face!

-Make sure your poem is about something you are truly passionate about and strongly want to express.

-Remember that this genre is all about you communicating and expressing your thought and experiences so have fun with it! Do not worry as much about having “perfect” grammar. It is more about it having rhythm and having as much ability possible to affect others.

-It may be helpful to get advice from an experienced spoken poetry performer.

-When performing your poem you can add extras to you performance such as soft music or a steady beat to set the mood.

Samples to look at:

Written and spoken poetry: http://spokenpoetry.net/spoken%20poetry/spoken%20poetry.htm

Youtube videos of spoken word performances:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLPuuUfPSYo -very cool example with music added along with it!





Leave a Reply