|Yes, this image is indeed relevant.|
I’ve seen some rather cruel things written about Open Mic. Yes, we know that sometimes the standard is mixed; not everyone who gets on stage is either going to be an extraordinary slam poet or a serious candidate for the T.S. Eliot prize, but I don’t think that’s the point. It's a democratic experience; it gives people a chance to share their work, but it also gets people in through the door to events as well. It can also be rather educational. You might just surprise yourself when you perform to an audience and learn things about your own work that you never realized before as well as escaping your ‘comfort zone.’ Similarly, you can also learn from other people’s performances.
Ok, La List:
1. When an organiser says a reader has 3 minutes and isn’t allowed to go over and read more than 2 poems then you must absolutely stick to this, no ifs and buts. This is not the time for your 2,000 line epic on the reformation of the Church of England, written in iambic heptameter. " It'll only take 20 minutes, okay 30, no one will mind," you say. Er, no. You want a few friends in the audience, don’t you?
2. Have you actually read your work before the event? I mean out loud, even if it’s to a row of teddy bears in your bedroom? Have you figured out where the stresses should be and how your voice could be used effectively?
2 a) just because something is a ‘page poem’ doesn’t mean you can’t do a lively and stimulating reading, in fact it may work in a much more subtle and effective way. This is better than doing a foghorn impression of what you think is a ‘performance poem.’
3. Look up now and again at people, don’t just clutch a sheet of paper in front of your face, this works better if you have followed no.2 in this list.
4. Punctuation – use it! Respect your full stops, pause when necessary, don’t pause when it isn’t required. I recall once losing the thread and staring into space for a second, that killed my ‘flow.’ Dingbat. You live and learn. (4a - you're only human.)
5. Can you read your own handwriting?
6. Don’t overdo the intro, if it takes you 5 minutes to introduce a six line poem then you have to wonder if the poem actually works by itself. Don’t tell the story first, have a bit of mystery, but by all means mention – briefly – what your audience may be interested to hear.
7. Out of courtesy, if you are going to mention ‘other stuff’ i.e. a fab new comp you’re running, tell the organiser first.
8. What’s the event? Poetry? Oh so, you’re going to read an extract from your novel instead? Our survey said, ‘I don’t think so.’ At least ask the organiser, some places are more flexible than others.
9. Don’t offend people please… they don’t like it. I once had to endure something bordering on misogynistic, it was awful. I didn’t clap, not many people did. Avoid arrogance, people don’t like it either. They like confidence though and clear delivery.
9a. As much as arrogance is a pain, don't be all coy and apologetic. Avoid saying things like 'this is a crap poem,' just read the darn thing.
10. Enjoy! It’s your space. You can make friends and be part of a supportive crowd. Also, you never know who’s listening…
Please comment if you have any thoughts on this.