Poetry vs Spoken word (performance poetry)


Wow it has been sometime. I got caught up on my other blog: http://www.nissiknows.wordpress.com . I am sorry for the neglect.

Odd intro aside, I have found that people often ask if I perform my poetry and when I say no, the look I get never fails to make me laugh. Now I have been turning this subject over in my head for a number of years and the conclusion I have come to is that performance poetry and spoken word have larger elements of artifice. By the very nature that performance poetry is written to be performed means that certain aspects have been amplified for performance effect and forcefully evoke emotion. Now I know that some people may be reading this are increasingly becoming enraged: nostrils flaring, chest heaving, quickly forming an angry response, but hear me out.

In order to get where I am coming from you must first see poetry the way I do. I personally believe that poetry in its most organic sense is reflections, thoughts and extensions of a human being in deep reflection with themselves. Poetry is an extension of its writer. When I think of poetry I imagine someone sitting quietly at their desk or lying on their bed with pen and paper or finger to keypad putting getting their thoughts out. There is no censorship because they have not necessarily written for an audience – it is an audience of 1. The writer is the reader.

Performance poetry on the other hand has been written to be enacted. I am not saying that the feelings expressed in performance poetry are not authentic – I believe they are. Instead the words and flow have been crafted to be brought alive in front of people. It is written so that people can understand and engage with words that they cannot see. Because the audience cannot see the words, the phrasing needs to explicit and easy to grasp on first hearing.

There is a definite and big difference between performance poetry and written poetry. To say there is no difference is a huge over sight and oversimplification of 2 different art forms.



About Plantain Periodicals

Hello! Welcome to the Plantain Periodicals blogs. The name stems from the kitchen moments I had with my friends at university cooking plantain and planning our lives together. I have used this space as a window into my mind and the way I make sense of all my experiences through writing.This is where I share those conversations and moments that happen inside my head as a young woman growing up in 21st century London. Hopefully you'll be entertained and also learn a thing or two. My main blog ad: www.nissiknows.wordpress.com My literature blog: www.plantainperiodicals.wordpress.com NMx
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9 Responses to Poetry vs Spoken word (performance poetry)

  1. Maggie says:

    Oddly enough, poetry always used to be a purely spoken art form, but there are some poems that are better when they’re read silently and not performed. I suppose it depends on what the author wanted for his/her piece.

    • Hiya Maggie, sorry I should have made it clear that I was only referring to when humans had the tools to write.

      I am fond of the spoken tradition and stories or any sort of info being passed on via word of mouth. Post this era I have found written poetry lends itself less to performance and has better effect simply being read.

      What do you think?

      • Maggie says:

        I think so too. Poetry nowadays seems to be a “quieter” and more “contemplative” thing than it was in the past. Some of the imagery in contemporary poetry doesn’t lend itself well to being performed.

  2. Susan Michaels says:

    Hmmmmm….and yet you have somehow GOT to hear a poet read, or an author… to fully appreciate the blend of artistic gifts…at least…that’s what I’ve discovered when attending Writers’ Festivals…I always end up getting more out of the work than from just reading the ‘work’.

  3. TISH says:

    hiya Nissi,

    This has actually opened my eyes up a lot to understanding both of them. as i found it really hard to bring my poetry to life, as you said when writing it is me, myself and i and a pen or at the laptop of my reflections not targeted at an audience. and on my first performance i found it very hard to bring to life as the concept was how i felt to God. WORDS directed towards me and God and to open that up to an audience was very hard.

    but then i received a comment on some of my poems that it would bring more life and depth into the words i was saying and expressing through a performance as readers cant always engage in the writers feelings and emotions behind it, it can be read or interpreted differently or not as face value as it is, where as others may fully express and show exactly the thoughts and feelings and essence of the writer. so it is a two way thing at times.

    since i`ve been writing i really admire spoken word i find it really amazing and it takes me on that journey and i can tune into the story much quicker than read. i think its the type of person you are also e.g a reader, audio learner, more touch and sight, attention span. but i truly admire the art of poetry in all of its forms, words are a powerful thing on paper or psychically expressed.

    i am a favor both to be honest. i agree that some are better read on paper and will still get the same authenticity, and some are needed that way so it does`nt take away from the truth and essence behind those words, it must be portrayed accurately when acted, some poets dont always posses that drama skill to get into that character and exact story as written. poetry written or acted is a deep beautiful expressive thing in its self. love it. and do miss performing as i write more than perform it and does reach people. some are so powerful to bring to life to an audience, it just must be carried out correctly. and some can still be powerful read.

    is down to the poet and how they feel will best express that poem.

    thanks for the definitions of both though, i did not see that divide before, i see where you are coming from.


  4. Lovely concept. I too believe that poetry and spoken word are very different yet related. I think some poems can translate well to audio while others are best savored mentally. And vice versa, some spoken word can be read and still be wonderful, yet some fall flat when read quietly. Nice post.

  5. Maxie says:

    Man I totally agree 100 percent!! I just got back into writing again and once people found out they I was crazy for not sharing it. But to me it was never meant to be shared because of the rawness of me putting heart out there for others entertainment. And you’re right, once you start to write for performance purposes you start to change the words you would have normally used. Man I truly agree with what you’re saying here.

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