How to Write and Perform Spoken Word Poetry

how to write spoken word, how to performing spoken word

Spoken word is the oral act of performing poetry. It is a great way to express feelings to others through poetry.

To writer a spoken word poem, one needs to own a topic to ruminate about, and then compose a poem enjoined with literary condiments such as metaphors, rhyme, alliterations, this helps pass a message with depth more than the normal speech or stand-ups.

Spoken word is the oral form of poetry and just as poetry, it needs to be well presented so as not to bore the listener and at same time have them understand the message being passed through the performance.

How to Write Spoken Word Poetry

Get a message

Every poem should have its own message.

When writing a spoken word piece (just as in any other poetry form), the message should be the first thing on the mind of the writer since you are going to be expressing to an audience.  You want to talk about a lover, an incident, a tragic tale, a journey? – Get on with the message at first.

It might not always be clear at the very beginning but there should at least be a message that the whole poetry performance is trying to pass.

To some (or many), this should be Get Inspired!, so which ever works for you.

There are a series of things you can do to get inspired;

  • Watch a movie (I watched Vagabond and got inspired to write On Healing and Letting Go)
  • Listen to music (Passenger is a beautiful inspiration)
  • Converse with someone
  • Observe the environment (A lot of things are happening, pick one that interests/hits you)
  • Take/watch photos (Trust me, it works)

There are numerous other ways to get mused to source for inspiration or a message to write on, just pick one of interest and start the magic.

Deliver a draft/Outline

It is best to work with a draft when writing a spoken word piece. Little poetic lines and verses here and there that co-relate conjoined together create a beautiful piece of work.

This is most helpful when you are not fully concentrated on writing the poem as a task but maybe just something (an inspiration) you caught at an ad-lib moment.

You can sketch out how to begin and end the performance even.

Recite It To Yourself

Just as this poetry classification speaks, this is not actually page poetry. It is SPOKEN. It is meant to be recited or performed and what best way to know if you’ve done a good job with the piece you’ve created than to listen to it yourself.

Get a recorder, every smartphone should have one, pour your mind into it.

Get the feedback, and check on what needs to be.

Be your own listener. Check for errors in the works. Correct the lines that give you trouble in spewing and replace them with better, smoother lines of poetry.

Edit/Audit till it’s what you want

Just as every other writing form, editing is a necessity to producing any excellent piece. No matter how well-laid the first work is, it can’t be as good as it would be when cross-checked and edited.

Tips on Performing Spoken Word or Reciting Poetry

Ensure your Memorize the poem

Of course this is one thing not to ever overlook when trying spoken word performance.

Why? Well this is so because it can easily lead you to making the biggest flop as a spoken word artist.

Now, it is not all that necessary to cram it all in the head – but it is however necessary to know what lines comes first and which goes next, so even when working with a performance aid (e.g. when reading with a mobile phone or [from] a notebook), it is much easier to continue reciting the poem without even needing the aids in the first instance.

Memorize some if not all lines, it is your poem – the rest would definitely come.

Maintain Eye Contact with your audience [or the camera]:

Do not throw your eyes into the sun looking for nothing while performing. Learn to carry a great ambience when performing spoken word because people are watching.

Looking into people’s eyes makes the message seem well communicated.

Although for some, looking above people’s heads works best so as to avoid the distracting look on people’s faces.

Be Expressive with your Voice

Use your voice and gestures to interpret various meanings to your audience. Amplify your voice on phrases that are important in the work.

Make highlights on parts of the work you wish your audience to really take note off through the heightening and sometimes recline in the volume of your voice.

This helps well in catching the audience’s ears.

Utilize Body and Facial Gestures when Reciting

You can move your body to convey various meanings while performing. Also, the face itself is a canvas of art on its own. You can display various pages of your poem just with your face.

A look of sadness on your face while reciting obviously passes a message so does a gleeful facial expression.

Use Bodily gestures and movements to interpret (if you can) certain emotions in the work

Have you seen Michael Lee’s Pass On, the break-dance!

The hands do have a role to play when performing spoken word too – just as when presenting any other thing for an audience.

Be Audible

Do I even need to say this?

When performing, you should ensure your words are as clear as they can be so your audience can get it right from the get-go and not miss what they should learn of.

Practice till it’s part of you

(Our little secret, even I am struggling with spoken word poetry performance on stage but trust me, after writing this, I’m pretty sure I’ll break it.)

Trust me, performing a poem in front of an audience (especially as a first-timer) is not as easy as you see it when you watch Rudy Francisco and Andrea Gibson.

To become really good at it, one needs practice. Like lots of it!. Practice so well you can perform the piece while subconscious.

Even if you’re a great page poet, you need to understand that page poetry and spoken word performance can be related to Messi’s staying in Barcelona and C Ronaldo’s performances.

Be Natural with it

So many aspiring spoken word poets tend to look too much into how well their lines are structured. You just need to calm down. Also, it is not mandatory to rhyme with any form of poetry.

Just as Click for Taz says in her video on How to Write Spoken Word Poetry, a lot of poets focus too much on the technicalities of poetry but it really doesn’t matter.

It’s better to just FOCUS ON THE MESSAGE, let it be ‘A Natural Release’.

Now that we’ve done our part on helping you with how to write and perform spoken word poetry, when should the world look forward to hearing to that beautifully dangerous story in your head? *Just kidding

If there are other tips we’re yet to mention in this resource, kindly drop them in the comments.

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4 Comments on “How to Write and Perform Spoken Word Poetry”

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