5 Tips on Spoken Word

Spoken Word is writing that is meant to be read out loud. Some examples of spoken word you might be familiar with are stories, poems, monologues, slam poetry, rap and even stand-up comedy. Spoken word is written on a page but performed for an audience and since it is performed, this poetry demonstrates a heavy use of rhythm, improvisation, rhymes, word play, and slang. It is more animated than more traditional forms of poetry. When writing a spoken word piece use words and phrases that project onto the minds of the listeners like vivid images, sounds, actions and other sensations. If your poem is rich with imagery, your listeners will see, smell, feel and maybe even taste what you’re telling them. Here are some spoken word poems from our Power Poets.

  1. Choose a subject and have attitude. No attitude, no poem! Feelings and opinions give poetry its “richness.” Each poet has a unique perspective and view of the world that no one else has. It is important that a spoken word poem embodies the courage necessary to share one’s self with the rest of the world. The key here is to build confidence. We must acknowledge ourselves as writers and understand what we have to say is important. Practice. Practice. Practice.  
  2. Pick your poetic devices. Poems that get attention are ones that incorporate simple, but powerful poetic elements. Repetition is a device that can help a writer generate exciting poems with just repeating a key phrase or image. Rhyming can enrich your diction and performance. (Check out other poetic devices while you’re at it.)
  3. Performance. Spoken word poems are written to be performed. After your poem is written, practice performing the poem with the elements of good stage presence in mind.  It is important to maintain Eye Contact – Don’t stare at the floor, or hide behind a piece of paper/phone. From time to time, look into the eyes of people in the audience to capture their attention. Projection  is also crucial, so remember to speak loudly and clearly so that your voice can be heard from a distance. Enunciation helps the listeners to hear exactly what you say. Don’t mumble. Speak clearly and distinctly so that the audience can understand what you are saying. Facial Expressions  help animate your poem. You’re not a statue: smile if you’re reading something happy. Look angry if your poem is about anger. This might sound silly, but using the appropriate facial expressions help express various emotions in your performance. Gestures such as hand motions and body movements emphasize different elements of your performance. Choose the right gestures for your poem.
  4. Memorization. Once you’ve memorized your spoken word piece, you can devote more time to your performance. Memorization allows you to be truly in touch with the meaning and the emotional content of your poem, even if you forget a word or a line you can improvise (freestyle), which is one of the most important elements of spoken word.
  5. Power Poetry. Spoken word must be, well, spoken. To create an online performance (so that you can share it on Power Poetry, of course) check out our multimedia tip guide to bring your work to life.

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