Writing is generally a solitary act. You hunker down and touch pen to paper or pound the keys of your computer. At the bottom of the inkwell is yourself. Your thoughts echo and chime and clang and soon take over the words stamped on paper: IT IS TOO EASY TO PRESENT SELF-SATISFIED BELLY BUTTON FLUFF AS LITERATURE.
What is needed is a means to clear the air and to read and hear the writing as it is. Not as you wish it. Not as you thought it. For this purpose, there is no better place than a well-run spoken word night. Suddenly, in front of a room of people you hear the words as they are written. Be honest with yourself; make a mental note of what rings true and clear and what is simple and plain fluff.
Making mistakes in public is PAINFUL and NECESSARY.
Look at how people react. Do they glaze over at long description? Do they listen? Do they nod? Listen to others too. See what works for you. Listen to why it works. Listen to the bad poems as carefully as the good ones. Why don’t they work for you? Put your finger on the essence of the mistakes and LEARN.
You will learn nothing if you leave after your own poem. In all likelihood, if you’re that sort of person you cannot learn anyway.
KNOW THAT TASTE IS NOT UNIVERSAL. Just because something is received well but you don’t like it, doesn’t mean you are wrong. But know too, there is still the potential to learn from it.
In my humble opinion, spoken word nights are the true test of poetry. Poems are, after all, made to be read aloud and heard. The written, the quiet, the solitary becomes the sonic and the communal. Once the bubble of your own thoughts have been burst, the next time you write know that you are writing for others. Do not try and trick them with fluff. Be honest with yourself, with your material. Use the ways that YOU see the world to distil and create something that you can be proud of. That you can hold up and say: this is my true, honest self in the world. This is what interests me and this is my voice. You have a voice. Use it to speak the truthful essence of yourself.
And, just cutting down on the rhetoric for a second, spoken word nights are a cracking way of meeting new people, having a drink and a laugh, and hearing new words about new things at the point of creation. Writing shouldn’t be – again, in my humble opinion – a competition. It’s a shared endeavour.
So why not get out there and give them a go? You can find some nights already listed in the comments here (if your favourite night isn’t listed, then add it).