Take the opportunity to do an open mic if you get the chance.
For any aspiring young artist, finding the opportunities to showcase our talent and express ourselves can be challenging. As a poet, one way to showcase your work would be at open mics. In movies, they’re portrayed as underground bars or cafés where moody poets perform spoken words, maybe with some smooth jazz in the background, a young man reciting a love poem to a beautiful girl while she sits in the audience not so impressed, but he wins here over anyways—just watch Love Jones.
Well, those cafés actually do exist, although most are 18 and over open mics. Frustratingly for me, I was only 17 my first time. Needless to say, I had to look for other alternatives. Luckily, my high school was organizing an open mic/talent show on campus. It wasn’t an underground bar with dim lights, jazz music playing or a potential love interest to read my poems to, but the experience was still great. So next time you get the chance to perform at an open mic remember to:
1. Reveal yourself.
For the show, I performed one original poem, and one by poet Desireé Dallagiacomo called “Thighs”—a poem about body image and women empowerment. “Thighs” is one of the poems that I was first exposed to when I came across the world of spoken world poetry on YouTube and held a very special place in my heart due to how much I related to the content. My own poem, titled “Note to Self” is advice I would give to the girl I was before, whether it was my middle school self or the person I was just months before I wrote the poem. “Note to Self” would’ve been one of my more personal pieces that I would’ve performed in front of an audience but it didn’t worry me at all. Being a writer, you have to be used to literally being an open book and comfortable with vulnerability. So when I wrote my poem, I knew what I was getting myself into with showing a more personal side of myself and past experiences. However, I didn’t anticipate my own emotional response during performance.
Leading up to my performance, I practiced my poem non-stop. Not necessarily to memorize it but to be familiar with what I wrote, leaving me to not have to look at my paper so much. My practices went smoothly, everything sounded the way I wanted it to and I felt confident going into the show. But when it came down to the actual performance, it was completely different. As I was wrapping up my poem with my last stanza, I broke down into tears. I was completely shocked at myself because I had gone over my poem so many times and this hadn’t occurred. It wasn’t until afterwards that I understood why it happened.
3. But don’t forget it’s live and anything can happen!
If you have ever practiced for a school project or rehearsed for theater, you probably know what I mean when I say that your practice is never the same as the performance itself. Similar to playing a sport, drills and scrimmage are different than the actual game. So of course when I performed my poem live, I had a different outcome from my practices. Given the added fact that the last stanza of my poem was about a friend of mine that died just five months prior to my performance, it only made me more emotional. It was the first time since his death that I had openly talked about it. And not only this, but I was openly talking about it in front of peers, strangers, and my close friends who had also lost him. The emotions in the room, the connection I had made with my audience with my poetry, heightened my emotions and lead me to tears.
Nevertheless, this was a memorable day for me. Crying at the end of my poem wasn’t disappointing or embarrassing, it was real and it’s what makes spoken word poetry all the more enjoyable and authentic. The words I was speaking moved something in me and I saw that it moved in my audience.
Follow Connie on Twitter @findingconnie