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How to organize a poetry evening

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As a poet, you might know yourself how hard it is to get invited onto stage. Poets all over the continent are crawling on their bare knees to be included on the bill of a poetry festival.
I know : it is all about who you know and it is all about where you live. I used to live in Antwerp : one of the cities in Belgium where poetry was still alive and kicking… well… it was still breathing… slowly.
And although there were only a few bars and pubs doing poetry nights and although there were only a few poetry nights a month : they were always quite packed.

So if you find it hard to get on a stage, if your village or city does not have do poetry nights … why don´t you organise them yourself? Here are some considerations!

  1. Think about what path you want to take …

Think about what you want the theme of your evenings to be. Try and imagine the future : what do you want your poetry nights to be known as? Do you want to go into a pure slam poetry genre or are you looking for something funny? Do you want to mix in cabaret or are you happy for people to read their poems in a normal and easy going way? You can also opt to just include everyone that is good enough. There are a lot of poetry nights and clubs around the country. Try and find something that is not or hardly done in your neighborhood and look at clubs further away that have achieved what you want to achieve and see what they are doing right so you can learn from them. The most important thing is to be consistent both in theme, genre and quality.

2. Plan Plan Plan! 

Think about how much time every poet will get. Know your poets and know what they do. Try to kick off with a very good poet and intertwine the bigger names with the smaller fish. Try to put yourself into the shoes of the audience and try to work out a plan that will keep them to the end and will not get them bored. Think of it like this : when you go and see a band you like, you know they will kick off with a famous song, go on and play some of their newer work, play some older songs, close with new work and then do an encore with their biggest hits.

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3.What about the Venue and the poets? 

As for the venue : try and ask your local pub if you can do your poetry evening in there. If not : loads of other bars and pubs and coffee shops you can try out ! When you are not one to hold a poetry evening in a bar, you can always do it in a park in the summer, in the library or a community center.

When looking for poets to include into your evening it is all about networking. Try and recall what poets you liked on other poetry nights and even ask them for poets they can recommend. Once you have organized a few nights yourself, people will come to you to ask for a spot on your stage. Do keep a good eye on the quality because that is something that makes people come back.

You can always plan yourself into your shows. But be aware : do not do this every time and try to put you in the middle of the planning.

Be humble, network, be bold and guard your quality. Once you start to organize your own nights you will see that you are being asked more frequently to perform and that you have more chances to bring your work to the public.

 

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