Let’s Examine Poetry Through Its Two Main Forms, Specifically Poetry For The Stage!
In the coming weeks, we’ll be covering a lot of poetry events and poets here at Soliquidas. However, I’ve realised a lot of people have massive misconceptions about what poetry is, who writes it, and what it’s all about. So, as silly as it may seem, I think it’s best to start at the beginning and ask questions like, “What is poetry?”.
Now, you can choose to watch the video above which outlines everything you need to know or you can continue reading, whichever suits your learning style best!
Generally speaking, there are two main branches of poetry. We’ve already covered the first, which is poetry for the page. The second branch is poetry for the stage. Also known as performance poetry and often referred to as spoken word poetry. This is what we’re going to look at now.
Performance poetry is the original form of poetry as many civilizations were capable of oral storytelling and poetry even if they could not read or write. It also shares a lot of roots with musical performance. Especially rap and hip-hop.
The immediate accessibility of this art form coupled with the much more welcoming community around it means that it’s often viewed as a more diverse and open-minded scene than poetry for the page. Personally, I believe there are just as many talented and diverse poetic voices that want to write for the page as there are for the stage.
However, it’s painfully obvious that there are simply fewer barriers to entry for minorities who pursue performance poetry rather than poetry for the page. I sincerely hope the world of print poetry soon catches up with performance poetry in this regard because there are so many diverse voices with valuable truths to speak that we rarely get to hear.
Obviously metaphors, similes, and imagery are still crucial to performance poetry but wordplay takes on a different meaning when the poem is audibly heard rather than read; there are so many things you can do with the spoken word that just won’t work on the page. In place of punctuation, the performance poet may use silence, changes in volume, tone of voice, singing, physicality or dancing, impressions of people, rhythm, music, videos, and/or images to hammer home the truths they are seeking to tell.
Another important distinction between poetry for the page and performance poetry is group work. It’s much more common in performance poetry to write and/or perform poems as part of a duet or ensemble. Which opens up a wealth of opportunities to explore, juxtaposing points of view, reinforcing communal truths, or simply telling stories in a much more compelling manner.
Where poetry for the page is often seen only when accepted for publication, performance poetry embodies a much stronger DIY work ethic. These days practically everyone has access to a smartphone that can record decent video, you can set up a youtube channel, facebook page, or website for free. Open mics are plentiful, poetry slams and competitions are becoming much more prevalent, and performance poetry is finding its way onto university campuses, into conferences, and has even made the leap to Broadway and films.
Because of this, performance poetry today is much less about waiting for someone to give you their seal of approval and much more about you being so good and so visible that no one can ignore you. It’s an art form that flexes a lot of different creative muscles than poetry for the page but for many, it’s an absolutely exhilarating experience. And one that I really think you should try!