If you’re anything like me, your poetry starts out pretty private. I typically get an idea, do a first draft, and then play around with it until I feel comfortable with what I see in front of me.
The exact amount of time it takes for this to happen usually varies—sometimes I’m pretty satisfied with it early on. However, I’ve also got poems on my hard drive that I’ve been messing with for several years, that I just don’t think have reached the point of being “ready” (whatever that means). I wish I could tell you that there’s some magical formula for knowing when a poem is done, or even having it come out on the page close to perfect to begin with. But I don’t have the kind of genius to give you that answer. I don’t think anyone does. What I can tell you is that eventually, your poem moves from a place of solitude in the folder where you keep work that’s under construction to a state of being ready to be shared. That is, if you want it to. It is true that there are some poems we write that are just for us, and that’s great, too. But once you know a poem is “done,” a larger question replaces it… When you know you’re ready to share a poem, how do you do it?
Here’s a big hint: submitting it to a literary journal is a great way to accomplish this, but it isn’t the only way. The fact is, not all poems are meant to be published or shared in a traditional manner.
After all, poetry is perhaps the most diverse form of written creative work there is. Why should we expect it to only fit into one box?
In truth, there are limitless ways to showcase your work, but I just want to give you a few ideas to get started. Hopefully, by the time we conclude National Poetry Month, you’ll be ready to bless an audience with one of your new creations in a manner that is truly befitting to what it means to you.
Read your poem online.
In the past year, we’ve all discovered the power of video communication to bring people closer together. But an added effect of being forced to connect online is that more avenues have opened for people to share their writing than ever before. I’ve gone to virtual open mic nights, webinars, conferences, and book release parties. I even held one from my own home last year when The Goodbye-Love Generation came out. Just for the record, I’m not saying that you have to create some kind of elaborate setting for sharing your poems. Facebook and Instagram Live have both become powerful venues for writers’ voices to go out online. Simply put, all you have to do is go live and read your work. It’s a low key, easy, and unintimidating way to share with others. Here are a few tips for doing an impromptu Instagram reading:
· Don’t overthink it. You don’t have to get dressed up (unless you want to, of course). You don’t have to be clever. All you have to do is hit the Go Live button and share. This is a big lesson I’ve learned with my weekly 10 Minute Writing Time livestream on Instagram. I’d like to say I prepare a lesson plan each week, but I’ve honestly discovered that my live broadcasts work way better if I just wing it.
Of course, if you’re more comfortable having some notes to draw from, then you do you. But the more you think about it, the more you will take away from the low-key environment of social media. (Sidenote: If you aren’t watching 10 Minute Writing Time already and are an Instagrammer, feel free to add @inklingcreativestrategies to your feed for weekly craft talks, writing exercises, and more)
· If you get nervous, remember that you aren’t here to promote yourself. You’re here to share a message. Think about why you wrote your poem to begin with. You did it because you felt so drawn to your subject that you couldn’t not write about it. That message is valuable, it’s one that people need, and the need to share should be enough to overcome any fear of what people might think of you. You have no idea how much your poem could impact someone who watches.
· Don’t get discouraged if no one watches live. Most people check out livestreams after the fact. Make sure you share the video to your IGTV—this will put it on your feed so people can check it out later.
Perform your poem.
Performing a poem is different from just reading it out loud. For one thing, poems that are performed aren’t done on the fly. Like an actor in a play, the author rehearses, blocks, and plans the performance so you will emphasize the right parts of the poem at the right times. While any poem can be performed, the style and subject often lend themselves well to performance. This is particularly true of persona poetry, where the poem is written in the voice of another character.
If you’ve written a persona poem, you might think about how to best portray that character, treating the poem like a monologue in a stage production. For example, you might think about how your narrator’s voice would sound, their mannerisms, and how they might interact with the audience. Apart from persona poetry, there are other ways to perform poems. You can use different tones of voice, word emphasis, and gestures to accomplish this.
To get ideas, look up slam poetry or performance poetry on YouTube. Here’s one of my personal favorites, a persona poem from the perspective of someone we all know and love: Siri.
Performance poetry is also usually memorized, but if memorization isn’t something you’re comfortable with, simply practice reading the poem out loud in a deliberate manner.Remember, it’s your poem to share. There are no rules.
Share your written work through some kind of mixed media.
Poetry paired with other art forms can make the experience of the language even more powerful. If you have other talents, such as video production, drawing, music, or photography, you might find a way to pair your poem with another medium. This can bring out the poem’s language and ideas in a way that words alone can’t do.
If you don’t have visual or musical talents, team up with a friend who does and make sharing the poem a collaborative project. Post the final result on Instagram or make a video for YouTube or TikTok.
Need more tips for writing and sharing poetry? Check out my new Ultimate Poetry Workbook. Released especially for National Poetry Month, this workbook contains dozens of prompts, poem ideas, and tips for poets of all experience levels to get inspired to write.
Click here to get yours now and start creating poetry to share.