Monthly Archives: February 2015

Transferable Skills: How Slam Poetry Experience Helps in “Real Life”

Last week I posted on how dance training and experience helps one in professional pursuits (acknowledging that the performance of dance alone is a professional pursuit). This week I’m going to discuss how skills developed though the practice of slam poetry are also useful in pursuits outside of that craft. Many of these skills are similar, such as the value of disciplined revision, but some are especially relevant in the practice of slam, and I’ll discuss those here. Continue reading


Transferable Skills: How Dance Experience Helps in the “Real World”

As artists, we often get flack about the practical usage of the skills we spend so much time developing. “OK, so you’re skilled in [dance, poetry, music], sure,” people often say, “But how does that help in the real world?” At university, I double-majored in English and Dance, with a minor in Educational Studies. The time spent studying English and education people were normally able to accept without much criticism, but when I mentioned Dance I would watch people’s respect for me decline as they immediately rebranded me as either a cheerleader or a hopeless hippie. As I grew accustomed, as most artists are, to the cries of “But what will you do with your life?” and “How is that practical?” I became skilled at defending my decision to study dance. Here I will present some of the ways in which my dance training, experience, and practice have helped me in professional pursuits, and next week I’ll be publishing a similar post about how performing slam poetry has assisted me in professional work. Continue reading

Performance Poetry: To Write or Not to Write?

Recently I’ve been working on developing and refining my creative practice for writing performance poems. To help determine some of the most helpful practices, lately I’ve been speaking with other performance poets about their creative processes.

When I write performance poems, I compose them on the page as I would do with composing a print poem. I tend to free write and then move sections around, play with enjambment (or, in performance, pauses and emphasis), and clarify messy bits. The only difference in the processes is that with performance poems I tend to read them aloud more as I’m composing, and certainly at the end of the process I’m reading them aloud constantly with an awareness of how the entire piece flows and what performative elements (vocal dynamics, physical gestures, etc.) I’ll be using during the piece. Continue reading

Spoken Word Styles: Narrative v. Abstract

I was speaking the other day with a fellow spoken word poet about our favorite “celebrity” slam poets, and we fell into a conversation about what makes a good spoken word piece. Our preferences differed and revealed an interesting divide which I think may derive from our different artistic trainings.

This poet was trained in theatre and had recently transitioned into spoken word. His model of a good spoken word poem is, the way I see it, more akin to a storytelling model. The ideal poem contains some sparkling gem line set against a solid foundation, but not each line will be genius: this is to ensure that when brilliant lines are dropped they wow the audience and stand out. These poems generally have more narrative formats: they are stories told poetically using some poetic devices. Likely due to his theatrical training, this poet is a highly engaging performer, laying out stories for the audience to eagerly follow. One of his favorite performers is Shane Koyczan, the Canadian spoken word artist who is masterful at this storytelling-poem format (“The Crickets Have Arthritis” is a brilliant example). While Koyczan’s emotionally poignant work is certainly growing on me, I initially didn’t want to categorise it as poetry, since it felt more like prose performed well onstage: it lacked many of the typical rhythmic, stylistic markers I would normally use to categorise a piece of work as a poem. Continue reading