Speak Easy! Pt. 5 - Live on the Air!

    Before you read your poem at a poetry venue or radio program, remember that there are two types of people who participate in open mics: Those who just want to share their words with others; and those want to seriously pursue poetry and spoken word as a profession or a ministry. Regardless of your motivation for stepping up to the mic, it's always best to be fully prepared if you want to get and maintain your audience's attention.

     If you are calling in to read poetry on an Internet radio program, be sure that you know ahead of time the exact time zone of the start of the program if it's different to yours, and type of show you are participating in. It may also be a good idea to just listen in to the show at first, to hear the content. A caveat: Remember that each poetry show has its own set of rules ...and caters to different audiences! If you decide to read a poem on a particular show, make sure to follow the voice prompts that will put you in the line-up to go on the air, otherwise the host will not know that you want to read. Callers go on in the order that their hands "go up", meaning, that if you call in at 8 PM, but don't decide to notify the host that you want to read (by pressing a number on your phone's keypad) until 9:00 PM, everyone who put their hands up between 8:00 and 9:00 will read ahead of you. Some shows will have automated systems that will inform you that you are in line to read, "in queue"; others will not. Most shows have online chatrooms where callers can communicate with one another and also see where they are in the line-up, so you can watch the chatroom activity while listening to the show, or you can turn the volume down on your computer while watching and listening by speakerphone.

     When your turn comes up, the host will call out your prefix and say something like: "Area code 347 is on the air," or if there is more than one person on the call with the same area code, they will say the area code and first 3 digits of the number you are calling from.  Be ready with your paper, phone or document screen open and ready to go when you are called on.When the line is opened for you, don't be shy! Turn the volume down on your computer if it's up to prevent interference, speak out, introduce yourself, and tell the host the title of your poem. If they want to share small talk, feel free to communicate with them, and let them know it's your first time calling in. That helps them to gauge where their audiences are from. The rules for a radio show are a little more relaxed than for a poetry venue, and hosts are very friendly towards newcomers. Read your poem clearly, take your time and don't rush through it.The most important thing to do is to choose a poem that you feel comfortable reading to others, and read it with confidence and feeling. Make sure it's no longer than 2 to 2 1/2 minutes in length, although shorter poems are OK, too. Remember that you are sharing your truth with the world, and people need to hear what you have to say, so command their attention! Don't try to sound like other poets or spoken word artists you have heard or admire, find your own style and do what feels and sounds most natural to you. If you make a mistake, keep on going. It's always a good idea to read your poem over a few times by yourself before going on the air, just in case you get anxious, but don't  ever apologize for being nervous, or for making a mistake. Relax and have fun! remember, that the hosts want and need people to call in, so that they will have a show.  When you are finished, it's good to take a short pause and say: "End poem", some poets say: "That's that piece" to let the host know that they are done.  The host will usually ask you where people can find more of your work. Again, don't say much more than that, or break the flow of your poem in any way that will distract the listeners. If you have a blog or social media page and would like for others to find you, that's the time to let them know. 

     If you register for a free account on the website where the radio show is being hosted, you can also drop a link to your website where others in the chatroom can see it. Most shows are recorded and archived, so you can always go back and listen to them later.

    In Part 6 we will talk about live open mics and poetry venues...so until then, keep writing and sharing your truth!

    *Note: If you're not sure of where to start looking for online poetry shows, there are several that you can choose from on: www.blogtalkradio.com, and www.talkshoe.com.


Speak Easy! Pt. 4 - Getting Ready

     Well...you've finally found an open mic venue, radio show or been invited to read poetry at your church, that was was the easy part. Now, the real work begins. So, exactly how do you prepare to read or present your work? First, make sure you know the type of audience you will be performing your poetry for. If it's going to be done at a church or family-oriented program, try to find out the theme of the event so that your poem will be appropriate for the atmosphere. Many church audiences are not familiar with poetry and spoken word, so be discerning about what you present to them and make sure the timing is right for what you want to offer. If you have written a piece that contains profanity or anything that could be interpreted as questionable, you can always modify the language for the event without losing the integrity and strength of the poem. Use an online dictionary or thesaurus to find alternate words to convey your thought. Many poets have two versions of their work to suit different audiences or have learned how to change language on the spot, to avoid offending their listeners. This doesn't mean that you cannot write or speak on certain topics, but the timing and presentation has to be right, in order for your words to be received.  The last thing any poet wants is to lose their audience in the middle of a poem. There is no guarantee that some won't be offended, but let the offence come from their own interpretation of what you say, not from your presentation.

     In Part 5, we will talk about etiquette, and some do's and dont's for poetry and spoken word presentation.


Speak Easy Pt. 3 - Sharing Your Voice

     So...you have all of these wonderful poems written in yor journal, stored in your phone, iPad (TM) or computer and want to share them, right? Where do you go to read your poems? How do you find poetry venues?

     If you use social media such as Facebook or Google plus, you can always look up poetry groups for your area by typing in "poetry" "spoken word" or "open mic" in the taskbar, where several names will come up. There, you can read the posts and see if anything interests you. Once you find an event that you want to attend, you can go and listen for a few times if you are shy, but bring along a few of your favorite poems just in case you want to read. As you continue to go out, you'll meet people and find out about more events. There are also churches who have poetry nights, so you can always ask about those and get in touch with the sponsors. Be aware that there are different types of venues for different tastes, so pay attention to the information on flyers or posts before attending any event. If you want to read at an open mic, get there early enough to sign up on the list, for the best chance at a turn. Depending on the venue, you may have to go back several times before you even get a turn, but don't let that stop you. Keep going to different places and start with smaller crowds, until you get comfortable with larger audiences.

    There are also many open mic poetry shows on the internet where anyone can call in and read their work. This is very good for building confidence in sharing your poetry, because you can read from the comfort of your own surroundings. You can find these shows on Talkshoe.com, Blogtalkradio.com, and others.  Just call in and listen, or follow the prompts to go on the air!

    A word about open mic events: An open mic show is exactly what it is...a space where anyone with something to say can get up and say, sing, or otherwise communicate whatever is on their mind. Some people are of the opinion that Christians should not participate in open mics because the mic is open to every spirit, but I feel that it's a real opportunity to be salt and light in a place that may need what God has given me to offer the world.  I don't write my poetry specifically for the church, I write from my heart, as I'm inspired to write; and my prayer is that through my writing, God will reveal His light to someone who needs to see, in a way that they haven't seen Him before. So, know why you write, be convinced of your poetic voice, and never allow anyone to discourage you in your craft or tell you what you can or cannot write about.  Of course, some topics may be more appropriate for certain audiences or venues than others...more on that later.
     In Part 4 of Speak Easy, we will talk about some technical aspects of reading and presenting what you write. In the meantime, keep being inspired!

     Enjoy The Number Poem by Poetri the Poet: