SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION
DO YOUR RESEARCH
PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!
Think of spoken word poetry as a two part project: the writing and the performance. These parts are equally important and although you might be more drawn to one than the other neither should be ignored. There is no limit on the number of poems you can write or the number of times you can perform them, so get started early and practice regularly. Information can only take you so far, skill must be built through practice. The following sections consist of tips for beginning spoken word poets to keep in mind as they start practicing.
- Do write your poem. Literally, write it down. On paper. Use line breaks, use indentations, and use punctuation. Make the poem look the way you want it to sound.
- Do use poetic sounds (rhyme, assonance, alliteration…, ect.) but don’t feel compelled to adhere to a particular structure. Most spoken word poetry is free verse.
- Do remember all of the elements that make poetry strong and affective (such as sensory details, vivid imagery, conflict, and purpose). They still work and should be employed.
- Do consider the speaker (or main character) of your poem and whether or not you will be able to perform in his or her voice, but don’t be afraid to push yourself.
- Do consider the length of your poem. Keeping it around three minutes when read aloud is a good rule of thumb, although you might want to start with shorter poems.
- Do memorize your poem. The performance is always stronger when you know what’s coming next and don’t have to look at a piece of paper.
- Do look at your audience, but don’t be distracted by them. Focusing on a spot in the back of the room, just above the top of your audience, can help with this.
- Do speak loud enough to be heard but don’t shout everything. This is a common mistake. Vary the volume and tone of your voice.
- Do perform with emotion and passion but don’t go over the top, unless you are intentionally conveying silly or overly dramatic behavior.
- Do be aware of your facial expressions and body language. You want to use them to deliver a complete performance, but don’t fidget or jump around without purpose.
- Do practice. Practice in front of a mirror, in front of friends, family, and anyone who will pay attention. Then sign up for an open mic or open slam. Repeat this process with every poem.