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How to…perform poetry

Written by Kirsten Luckins

Want to perform your poems but don’t know where to start? Kirsten Luckins, spoken word artist and Apples and Snakes North co-ordinator, offers us some pearls of wisdom.

I know in my heart that everyone is a poet, prompted and prodded by mysterious inner urges to put their deepest thoughts down on paper. Some of these bits of paper never see the light of day – they lurk under beds, or are ritually burned, or are locked away in attics with other outgrown items.

But an unspoken poem is a sad and lonely thing! There is a bright, funny, passionate, political, moving, relevant and culturally essential world of performance poetry just waiting for you to jump up, jump in and speak your mind! But how?

1. Go along to a poetry night with an open mic section
You’ll be amazed at the range of things people write about, and how inclusive it is. Some performers will make you want to write more, and better. Some will make you think – ‘well, if they can do it, so can I!’ Once you feel the adrenaline rush of getting up and saying your poem, you will be totally hooked. For open mic cabarets in Newcastle, Sunderland and Whitley Bay, join the JibbaJabba community– you even get a loyalty card!

2. Join a writing group that focuses on performance

There’s nothing better than learning from people who actually perform for a living, in the company of other beginners just like you. 

3. Watch and listen to lots of different performance poets online
Most performance poets, and regular spoken word nights around the country, have some kind of online presence. It’s a great way to see performers you would otherwise miss because they are based elsewhere, and to see the range of poetic styles. For more in-depth thoughts about spoken word, featuring lots of different acts, you can also tune into podcasts. You might like to check out event sites like Band Said The GunStirredShe Grrowls, or Rally & Broad. Apples and Snakes have their own channels for video and audio.

4. Practice and get constructive feedback
It’s not always easy to find someone who understands what you’re trying to do, and can honestly tell you how to do it better. But performance poets in the northeast are very lucky, because there is a Scratch Club every month in Newcastle where you can get together and try out new work. Everyone supports each other to experiment, learn new things and really improve. To get regular invitations to Scratch Club, which sometimes has visiting performers giving masterclasses, join the Apples and Snakes North East Facebook group.

5. Try your hand at slamming

Not for the faint-hearted, but always a fun challenge – entering a slam is the thing to do once you’ve had a fair bit of open mic performance practice under your belt. Some are annual, like SLAMalgamate at JibbaJabba in January, or the Great North Slam at Radikal Words in April. Organisations like Hammer & Tongue run slams around the country all the time, or you could even try the AntiSlam, where the worst poem wins!


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