Words by Benjamin Solah

Have you made some poetic new year’s resolutions for the start of 2014 – or at least some in theory commitment to go see some more poetry, write some more, or finally compete in that slam or get up on that open mic?

Melbourne Spoken Word is here to help. The first thing to do is sign-up to our weekly newsletter and/or check our upcoming events page. Find a gig near you or one that you can slot into your calendar. Find the one with the open mic or open slam if that’s what you’re looking for.

And then, if you’ve resolved to get up on stage for the first time, or again, we have some tips and recommendations to help you along the way.

  1. Speak Clearly – whether the gig is with a microphone or powered only by your own lungs, it’s important to make sure you speak clearly and loud enough. You might have the best words in your head on the page but unless people in the audience can hear you, no one will know.
  2. Respect Your Time Limit – whether there’s an official time limit or not (usually it’s around 5 minutes) be sure to keep within that time limit or do not abuse the open mic and go on too long. It’s better to get the audience’s attention with a bang, rather than get known for going on too long. You may think that this one last poem of yours is brilliant but people are more likely to remember the phrase “just one more” rather than the poem if you’ve already gone over your time limit. Some gigs have a bit of leeway or more if there’s a short open mic list but if the queue is packed, best to keep it short.
  3. There’s Always Someone Listening – sometimes the audience might be distracted, with some people having conversations as the night goes on, but rest assured, there’s always at least one person in the audience that will give you the time of day, especially if you’re getting up for the first time. Focus on them.
  4. Listen to Others – it’s just good manners if you get up to read or perform, that you generally stick around and listen to others getting up and reading. It’s also one of the best ways to improve your craft by soaking up the collective inspiration of the Melbourne poetry scene
  5. Paper Crutch – And lastly, at some open mics or slams, a lot of people memorise their poems and don’t read off paper. There’s lots of good reasons to do that, but don’t feel like you’re obliged to or that’s automatically going to make your performance better. Especially if you’re getting up there for the first time, it’s better to have paper there (even as just a back-up) so you can make sure you’re going to finish your piece rather than having to freeze half way through

There’s just a few tips. Feel free to ask questions below or to offer your own tips and tricks on open mics, but also, here’s a few of the best open mics around town to get you started:

  • Passionate Tongues at the Brunswick Hotel: Every second Monday night at the Brunswick Hotel, Michael Reynolds hosts Passionate Tongues from 8.30. There’s a feature performer who does about half an hour but the best is open mic and ample chance to get up and debut. Michael loves first-time readers and often gives them a little something for getting up for the first time and there’s always a supportive crowd. Also, low pressure if you want to get up later in the night.
  • House of Bricks: roughly every month at House of Bricks Gallery on Budd Street in Collingwood, Santo Cazzati is the ‘poetry-jockey’ or ‘PJ’ for a relaxed gig in a warehouse gallery, where he often describes to open mic as just as good as the features. Find Santo in a colourful shirt and hat to put your name down. He’s one of the best people to have in the audience if you’re feeling a little nervous.
  • The Dan: Every Saturday afternoon from 2pm at the Dan O’Connell Hotel in Carlton, apparently they’re giving a free drink to first timers starting this year. What more encouragement can you get? One of the longest running poetry events in Melbourne
  • Slamalamadingdong: want a high energy debut into spoken word in Melbourne? This slam happens every month at the Bella Union Hotel inside Trades Hall in Carlton and the slammers and organisers are incredibly supportive if you want to get up for the first time. Get their early though as spots are highly sought after.
  • There’s so many more I could list like ContraVerse, The Barley Corn, West Word. Check out the upcoming events pages for when they are, keep our tips in mind and have fun!

    Benjamin Solah

    Benjamin Solah

    Benjamin Solah is a writer, poet, spoken word artist, activist and the Director of Melbourne Spoken Word. He grew up in Western Sydney before calling Melbourne home in 2008, where he's performed since 2010 around Melbourne's regular spoken word and poetry nights including Passionate Tongues, The Dan Poets, Voices in the Attic and House of Bricks as well as the NGV and White Night. He's released a chapbook, broken bodies, and two spoken word albums, Duel Power with Santo Cazzati and The World Doesn't Make Sense EP.
    Benjamin Solah

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