Category Archives: Work in progress

Writing for Spoken Word

Busybird Publishing Open Mic Night by Kev Howlett
Busybird Publishing Open Mic Night by Kev Howlett

Last week I had fun at a workshop facilitated by spoken word poet, Krystle Herdy, at the Society of Women Writers Victoria. I have written a poem or two in my life but it isn’t my preference. That doen’t mean that I don’t appreciate it. In fact I encourage writers of prose to dabble in poetry of some form because it will add a lyrical quality to their work. It’s also a lot of fun to play with words.

At first the group was a little shy about getting up to read their work but they soon found their way and were belting out poems within an hour. Once they got the idea that the spoken word is as much about attitude and how you perform it and that the written form doesn’t usually translate as well when read aloud, they were out the front with attitude. This group has an age range of around 40 to 85 years of age, so it’s an awesome sight to see a 75 year old woman talking about politics or love with attitude.

I had the feeling that overall, the group felt quite liberated by the workshop after being given permission to ‘perform’. So here are some things to think about if you’re writing for performance:

  • Be bold about what you’re saying, this comes back to attitude
  • Use concrete images. You don’t want to lose the audience with complicated descriptions where they may lose track of what you’re saying.
  • Repetition can be useful to get a point across.
  • Rhyme can also help as it can help people latch on to images.
  • Metaphor creates images for listeners.
  • Illiteration (repeating first letter of a word like silly Sam) makes images more concrete.

Once you have your piece written down, you need to work on the delivery. Spoken word isn’t about writing a poem and getting in front of people to read it. You need to practise your performance, remembering that how it’s written isn’t necessarily how you perform it. The emphasis on words will be different to how you’ve put it on paper. Here are six things to work on to deliver your work:

  1. Strong, confident posture
  2. Make eye contact with your audience
  3. Project your voice
  4. Enunciate your words
  5. Use facial expressions to fit the tone and words of your piece
  6. Practise the work before you go live.

Spoken word is as much about theatre as the actual words and there are people who concentrate soley on this type of writing. There are many places where you can go to see or participate in spoken word events, such as our open mic night (third Wednesday of the month) or places auch as Melbourne Spoken Word. There are some poetry slams out there that pay good money too, if you’re up to the challenge.

Give it a go, it’s a lot of fun.

Blaise, the book chick

The Tree

Image by Kev Howlett
Image by Kev Howlett

Amanda was a domestic goddess. She loved order. She adored her weatherboard house, painted in heritage colours, and the lovely garden that flanked it. Her daughter was pretty and sweet, her son a karate champion. Her handsome husband was the owner of a successful printing business. The family dog, Misha, was the best behaved on the street. All this was neatly contained within a quarter acre block just eighteen minutes from the city.

Domestic bliss came easily to Amanda. She swept through her days with efficiency and grace; the tiled surfaces of the bathroom always shone. The little house was the family palace and the proudest achievement was the immaculate green lawn.

It was on a Tuesday that Amanda sat at her kitchen table looking out at the garden. Hugging a hot mug of tea, she squinted at the back corner, past the bungalow, at the golden oak tree. She was surprised at how tall it had grown. In the autumn afternoon, she realised that it was now blocking the sun, despite the fact that it’s yellow leaves had begun to fall. She muttered about raking up the leaves – her work was never done.

‘That tree has got to go,’ she said with conviction, immediately opening up the yellow pages at T. Her fingers traced the lines of ink until she found a suitable business: Tree Felling and/or removal, no job too big or too small.

On the hour, the next Friday, as arranged, the tree men arrived. Amanda had never experienced such punctuality from tradesmen before; she nodded her approval from behind the kitchen windows.

Through the side gate came four robust men in overalls, brandishing ropes, axes and chainsaws. Amanda watched in awe as they scaled the golden oak tree. Serpent-like ropes held branches then limbs fell to the ground in rapid succession. The chainsaw roared filling the yard with moans and squeals. Neat round logs of wood marched out through the side gate. Mounds of fresh sawdust carpeted the ground like ash and suddenly, the tree was gone.

In the silence, Amanda gasped. She turned towards the retreating men but they had already hurled the wood into the back of the truck and rumbled away. Approaching the barren place, shielding her eyes from the light, Amanda was shocked.

The afternoon sun streamed into the garden. The smell of oak permeated the air with a pungent fragrance that made Amanda take a deep breath. With her eyes closed, she felt a cool draught curl about her ankles and heard a very faint groan – or was it a whisper?

Why have you forsaken me?

Amanda’s body felt rooted to the earth. She could not open her eyes.

Why did you slay me?

‘No, please, I only wanted more light…’ Amanda whispered.

Fleeing inside to the safety of the kitchen, she looked out at the backyard with trepidation. The sun blazed through the garden, heating the glass in the kitchen windows. When she looked at where the tree had been, she imagined a ghostly image, shimmering in the heat. She frowned at it, willing it to go away.

That night, the family felt like they were in a different house. Everything seemed to be normal. Dinner was on the table; the children had their baths and did their homework. But Amanda carried an anxious face with her from room to room, causing everyone to talk in whispers.

The next day, Amanda rose from a sleepless night. Her world seemed re-arranged. What was normally important to her, such as the styling of her daughter’s curly hair, was now trivial because her mind was focused on the world outside the walls. She stood in the garden and felt an emptiness not known to her.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she whispered tearfully. ‘How can I make this up to you?’

A stiff breeze rose before her, disturbing the remnants of leaves and sawdust and already she knew what needed to be done.

***

Amanda is no longer a domestic goddess. She still loves her little weatherboard cottage and it is tidy enough. The floors are clean but not sparkling. Her family go about in clean clothes, slightly wrinkled. She is still proud of her children’s achievements and her handsome husband and Misha, the dog, is still well behaved. Actually, Misha is happy because Amanda is outside in the garden all the time. You will find Amanda now, if you visit her today, out in the garden with fresh dirt up to her elbows, planting something and talking to the trees.

[inspired by winter]
Blaise