Readings and Performing

Going to a Reading

Readings aren't just for poets, though poetry's brevity and lyricism is most suited to reading in public.

There are many ways to share your poetry or other writing, and one way is to attend an open mic reading at a local café. What that looks like is this: a host runs an event in which people from the public are welcome to sign up to read a short piece of writing. Normally this is one poem, or a maximum of two or three minutes of other writing. The host will have a sign-up sheet, where you'll add your name, and once it's filled, the event will begin.

When it's your turn, you go to the front of the crowd, perhaps onto a small stage, and read your work aloud, with as little introduction as possible, other than your name and the title of your poem. It will be tempting to say something more, i.e., this poem is really fresh, this is just something I wrote on the way here…to make yourself feel better if you feel it isn't well-received. Resist this if you can! Also resist a long-winded explanation of why you wrote the poem, how you came upon the idea, etc. People are there to hear a poem, and they have short attention spans.

If you're lucky, people will be attentive and listen to you instead of the coffee grinder or cash register. They might even clap! Then, after thanking your audience for listening, you sit down and become a good listener for the next poets.

Then, often, these readings will have a featured reader, a published writer who will read from their work for ten or fifteen minutes (or longer), and then have books for sale and for signing afterwards. It's always a good idea to stick around for this; there is much to be learned about the craft of poetry and the art of performing.

Performance Art

Some writers write their pieces speficially to perform for an audience in person or on video. Performance art has a huge range — from spoken word poetry that includes singing to stand-up comedy.

Watch this video to see performance artist Skeena Reece talk about her preparations, and her intentions behind her art. (Note: the window for this video will show near the top of the page when the graphic is clicked.)

Note: In the Poetry "Go Deeper" section, you'll read about kinds of poetry performance.