Telling Your Story,  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

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