At a recent open mic, the audience was patient and attentive. Many of the poems were fine and presented with polish and forethought. But…as with so much of life, sometimes there’s a better way.
- Know something about poetry; it’s not a sermon, a diatribe, or an ego trip. If you write it, you should read it, often and with great variety. It’s even nice to include a poem by someone other than yourself.
- We give poetry a bad rap if we bore people or offend them. Accept that your audience is mixed and might not admire a rant full of cliché and loose talk.
- Reading from a small, unstable device like a phone, is asking for annoying glitches. Use a larger screen or print the poems. Read from a book only if you can handle it and the mic.
- Get friendly with the mic and the readers’ light. If people can’t hear you or you cannot see the work in front of you, why bother?
- Prepare. You probably didn’t stumble across the event five minutes before it started. If you read from a book, mark the pages with sticky notes or make a list so you don’t take up precious time shuffling pages. If you print individual poems, use a font that’s easy to read.
- Select pieces ahead of time and know how long it takes to read them at a slightly slower pace than you would use in conversation. Most open mics limit your time. Respect that. In fact, it’s better to leave ’em hungry rather than tired, bored, and ready to hit the bar or the bathroom.
- Don’t announce a form. The audience can hear it if you’ve made it work. And if you haven’t, why draw attention to your experiment?
- AND DO NOT GO TO THE MIC STONED, DRUNK, OR OTHERWISE ANNOYING TO THE AUDIENCE AND TO THE OTHER READERS WHO VALUE THIS OPPORTUNITY.
If people give you their time and attention, deliver the best you have. Poets need listeners. Respect the art form and the audience.