The following is based on fifteen months of poetry readings and open mics. I fully intend to post a more rant-y version of this later to reflect a couple of recent experiences; for now, I think this simple list will be appropriate:
Kevin’s Rules of Poetry Reading Etiquette
for poets, hosts, and audiences
- Keep your introductions short.
- Stay within your allotted time.
- Speak loud enough for people to hear you.
- Speak as clearly as possible.
- If you stumble over a word, just keep going.
- Make eye contact, at least every now and then.
- Don’t spend too long looking for a particular poem.
- Keep explanations of your poems to a minimum—if they’re longer than the poems they’re explaining, they’re too long.
- Give your audience a heads up about anything affecting your performance
- Let your featured readers know the order in which you plan to introduce them.
- Confirm with readers the names by which they would like to be introduced.
- Be clear with readers (featured or otherwise) about how long they will have to read.
- Enforce the allotted times.
- Except to inform the reader that his or her time is up, don’t interrupt.
- Keep personal comments between readers to a minimum
- Arrive before the reading begins.
- If you are late, enter the room and take your seat as quietly as possible.
- No matter how bored you may be by a particular poem, at least make it look like you are paying attention.
- If you find yourself coughing or sneezing a lot, it’s okay to leave the room for a moment.
- Even if it’s just a token golf clap, applaud when appropriate.
- Leave the fragrances and scented products at home.
- Turn off your cellphone ringers.
- Leave your pets at home.
- Consider carefully before you bring them whether or not your children will find the reading as interesting as you do.
Fellow poets! If you think of anything I may have missed, let me know.
(14 March 2016)