Published On: Thu, May 21st, 2009

5 Things Every Performance Poet Should Have

Bueno…as you already know Spoken Word is on the come up after being underground for a few years. Every year in street corners, cafes and colleges more and more people are discovering the evolving art of performance poetry and it is quickly reclaiming its place, primarily in the urban communities. whether it is at Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Capicu Poetry, Def Poetry Jam or Brave New Voices, spoken word allows us to collectively express our successes, our failures, it helps us ask questions, get answers, get things off our chest and sometimes simply pay homage to the beauty we see in life.

For those of you that have ever grabbed a mic and unleashed a perfect storm of all that is you…it can be addictive and you may be finding yourself compulsively looking for places to visit to feed the hunger for words. 

Now if you are new and breaking into the scene and need some guidance, or are just an occasional open mic'er, all you really need is a pad full of your thoughts to make it to the stage and participate in an open mic. In that case you may want to read the great tips from my Partner Papo Swiggy's 5 Steps To The Stage article.

On the other hand, the more addicted wordsmith who wants to make a career of it, might want to be a feature, publish a book, record a cd or dvd, go to slams, compete and win… in essence they want the world to hear their voice.

1. Books - Three books are very important tools…in particular a dictionary, a thesaurus and a writing pad. In order to really make your presence known, you will need a good working knowledge of the language you write in…and any poet will tell you that you never stop learning new words and discovering new ways to assemble them into an audio mosaic of your experience. Reading books on topics of interest will also give you an incredible base to draw ideas and concepts from. Here are some books I like at the Sofrito Book Store

2. A GMail Account - That is right…I am being specific about what email client you should use for a few reasons I will include here. First things first…it is F.R.E.E and very simple to use. Google also offers many other FREE online tools such as:
  • Calendar - Will help you keep track of upcoming open mic, cultural events, writers workshops and online open mics like Radio Capicu (shameless plug) 
  •  Google Docs - Docs helps you create all kinds of documents, spreadsheets and presentations, allows you to archive and share with friends…a great feature if you are collaborating with other poets on a project.
  • Google RSS Reader - To stay on top of current events and feeds from blogs that cater to spoken word and cultural events. 
  • Mobile Apps - For all of you Poets on the go, Google offers great apps to use on your Blackberry, Sidekicks and G1's  
  • Google Labs - All kinds of really cool plug ins in beta testing to really enhance your Gmail into the ultimate organizational and networking tool. 

3. Social Media Presence - Now there are many sites out there for you to connect with other poets. There are the big sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, but there are also very specific niche sites that cater to the lovers of spoken word. One site I like is Poetic Works, which incidentally just celebrated their first anniversary…(Abrazo para Flora La Poeta Montes). In the end, you will have to select the best networking platform for both finding your following and networking with poets & venues.

4. Promo Items - Whether your peddling a chap book of selected verse, a cd of your performance or even a bookmark that has your contact information, you need to leave something behind with new fans as you move from venue to venue. This will help you get your name out and potentially link you to people that can get you gigs. On a side note make sure you are aware of the copyright laws and registration process so that you can protect your intellectual property. Here is a good link to start with called "10 Myths of Copyright"

5. Stage Presence - Spoken word is a genre where originality is king…and energy is everything. Find your way to making your piece come alive with every bodily gesture and facial expression. Make sure what you are wearing fits with what you are saying…in a nutshell…know your audience. Nobody likes sitting through monotone and unenthusiastic performances…it will kill your poem no matter how good it is.

6. Come to Capicu Poetry – I know…another shameless plug but I am biased knowing that we have created a very dynamic venue in NYC that is ready to move around the country. If you are in the area…come thru…and if  you are not in NY, but want to perform at Capicu Poetry…let's talk!  Our bags are packed and ready to bring it to you!  You can join our facebook page by clicking here.

Poets…can you think of other things that we can add that will make this list more complete? Shoot us an email at and let us know.

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5 Things Every Performance Poet Should Have