How to be a good poetry audience..

We’ve talked about stage fright, the benefits of attending poetry workshops and tips on performance in previous blogs, and now it’s time to give the audience a few pointers!

It’s simple really; a good audience can help uplift a performance, while a distracted/bored audience might drain, even the most seasoned performer. No poetry event is complete without an audience that is willing to be captivated.

Speaking from the perspective of a performer, myself, I can attest to the fact that an artist feeds off the energy of an audience.

So let’s go over some do’s and don’ts – some might be obvious and others not so much.

  • I know traffic in Mumbai can be hellish but please factor that in and get to the gig on time. Nothing is more distracting to a performer, than an audience member, who saunters in at the last minute with squeaky shoes, bumping into people.
  • Yes you’re not at the movies or in church, no one is going to make an announcement, but it is basic etiquette that you keep your phone on silent or switch it off. This goes out especially to those who invest in songs as ringtones and the sound of dogs barking as a message alert.
  • There will be occasions where poets you love or admire are performing and you like their poem. Please let the artist know if you’ve taken a video or if it’s not too much of a hassle, ask them before you upload it somewhere public. I know some fantastic poets who refuse to be videoed.
  • A lot of poetry gigs aren’t paid which means that more often than not, poets are not paid to come and read their poems. This eliminates all the effort put into writing good poetry, memorising it, working on their performance etc etc. So if a poem or a poet resonates with you, please show them some appreciation. You might just be the reason they keep writing and performing.
  • I know this is a super obvious one but let’s just get it out of the way – don’t talk when someone is performing. Don’t whisper either, you might think you’re being quiet but you’re probably one of those loud whisperers that might as well have been screaming!
  • And last but not the least, be a responsive audience. Smile at a joke, nod in agreement, click your fingers, clap your hands, and be present!

It takes a lot of gumption to get up in front of an audience and speak, let alone bare your soul with poetry so next time you’re at a poetry gig, be a kind audience member.

-Rochelle Dsilva

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