Before we dwell on spoken word poetry, let us get an understanding of what poetry is and the origin of poetry.

Poetry is a form of art that uses human language for its aesthetic qualities. Moreover, it can also choose to use its notional and semantic content.  

It mainly consists of oral or literary work used in such a way that the language is felt by the user as well as the audience.

Poetry uses a condensed or compressed form to convey the emotion or ideas to the readers or the listener’s mind or ear. To achieve musical or incantatory effects, poetry can also use devices such as assonance and repetition. 

More often than not, poems rely on the musical qualities of a language, word association, and the imagery produced by those words. 

Due to words being strategically used, poems are extremely difficult to translate into another language. 

How often have you heard a poem in Urdu but its literal translation in English, does not make any sense? 

These shades and nuances of meaning can be difficult to interpret in addition to causing different readers to “hear” a particular piece of poetry differently. This makes poems have only reasonable interpretations rather than definitive ones.

Now, let’s move on to spoken word poetry.

What is spoken word poetry?

Spoken word is meant to be read out loud and proud.

In simple words, the spoken word is what is meant to be read out loud. Some examples of the spoken word you might be familiar with are stories, poems, monologues, slam poetry, rap, and even stand-up comedy

As a result, the use of words and phrases that project onto the minds of the listeners like vivid images, sounds, actions, and other sensations is a must. With proper use of words, your listeners will see, smell, feel, and even taste what you want them to. 

This genre of poetry has its roots in oral traditions and performances. The spoken word can encompass or contain elements of rap, hip-hop, storytelling, theatre, jazz, rock, blues, and folk music. 

Characterized by rhyme, repetition, improvisation, and wordplay.

Spoken word poems frequently refer to issues of social justice, politics, race, and community. 

Related to slam poetry, the spoken word may draw on music, sound, dance, or other kinds of performance to connect with audiences.

Usually, there’s a time limit of about five minutes or a one-poem limit, which typically works out to 3–5 minute

If you are planning to perform soon, here are a few tips:

Tips to perform spoken word poetry.

1. Choose a subject and have an attitude.

Pick your topic and radiate confidence.

No attitude, no poem! 

The “richness” in poetry comes from the feelings and opinions of the poet. Everyone goes through their own experiences and develops a view of the world, unlike others. 

To be able to touch your audience, it is extremely important for the poet to show the necessary courage and express his/her thoughts freely. It doesn’t matter how bizarre your views are, poetry at its roots is for self-expression. 

The key here is to build confidence. We must acknowledge ourselves as writers and understand that what we have to say is important. 

2. Pick your poetic devices.

Surprisingly enough, poems that incorporate simple yet powerful poetic elements are the ones that get noticed. 

Repetition is one such poetic device that can help a writer generate exciting poems by just repeating a key phrase or image. 

Rhyming can also enrich your diction and performance. 

You can check out other poetic devices while you’re at it and learn to use them properly.

3. Research different styles of spoken word poems and poets.

Research all the way.

There’s a ton of authors that are spoken-word poets: Watsky, Kevin Coval, Sarah Kay, Phil Kaye, Guante, and so many more. 

Watching different artists use different styles might just do the trick and inspire you to write your own masterpiece.  

Hop on YouTube and explore the search bar…

4. Develop your style.

First, choose a subject that you are really passionate about. If your heart is into it, then so will your audience be. 

Second, decide how you want your poem to be presented. 

And lastly, fuse these two…

That’s the way you could solidify your confidence when you perform it if you ever do, spoken word is meant to be performed. This is what we mean by ‘style’.

5. Respond to a troubling question or idea.

Respond to questions.

Some of the best-spoken words come from a response to a question or idea that makes you think. Pick a question that makes you feel unsettled or curious. Then, write a detailed response to create the spoken word piece.

For example, you may try responding to a question like “What are you afraid of?” “What bothers you about the world?” or “Who is the most valued person in your life?”

6. Come up with a gateway line.

The gateway line is usually the first line of the piece. It may sum up the main topic and/or set the theme for the entire poem. 

The line can also introduce the story you are about to tell in a clear, eloquent way. A good way to find a gateway line is to write down the first ideas or thoughts that pop into your head when you focus on a topic, moment, or experience. 

For example, you may come up with a gateway line like, “The first time I saw her, I was alone, but I did not feel alone.” This will then let the reader know you are going to be talking about a female person, a “her,” and about how she made you feel less lonely.

7. Use repetition to reinforce an idea or image.

Repetition can help your listeners focus.

Most spoken words will use repetition to great effect, where you repeat a phrase or word several times in the piece. 

You may try repeating the gateway line several times to remind the reader of the theme of your piece. Or you may repeat an image you like in the piece so the listener is reminded of it again and again. 

For example, you may repeat the phrase “The first time I saw her” in the piece and then add on different endings or details to the phrase

8. Finalize everything.

Once again, read your piece out loud. Moreover, ensure that everything flows smoothly and that you are indeed happy with what you have created.  Perform it for a teacher or a friend. 

But remember that you are doing all this for improving. So don’t forget to ask for their honest feedback.

9. Have fun and perform.

Enjoy yourself.

After you’ve finalized everything, and you know how you want to perform it, have fun with it. 

You’ve finished everything for the piece and you can still edit it here and there if you end up being unhappy with it again.

Spoken-word is really fun and it’s a chance to put your voice out there about something you are passionate about.

Before jumping into the spoken-word form, simply write everything you love, know, agree, and disagree with. 

Why?

Because more often than not, human thoughts are like a tree. One branch will lead to smaller branches and those to the leaves and so on. 

For example, for an ode to autumn, we would write about how we love the colours of leaves, wearing beanies, bonfires, and the best part: no mosquitos. 

Plus, you have an excuse to wear hoodies and cuddle up in a blanket!