Four Types of Poetry

You've made the decision to organize a poetry event, but now comes the crucial choice: What type of event do you want to host? With a wide range of possibilities, it's essential to understand the various models that can be employed to run a successful poetry gathering. While events can take on unique characteristics, they generally fall into one of four formulas, each offering its own distinct charm and style.

1. Open Mic

The open mic format serves as the foundation for every performer, providing a platform for budding talents to make their debut on stage. It's a straightforward model where individuals sign up and take the spotlight to showcase their poetic prowess. Depending on the producer's discretion, there may be time or topic restrictions. Some open mic nights may culminate with a featured act or headline performance, while others maintain a free-flowing order. Sign-up procedures can vary, from on-the-spot registration to prior submission of names. Open mics often embrace diverse artistic expressions, welcoming stand-up comedians, musicians, and other creative artists alongside poets.

An offshoot of the open mic format is the bringer show, popular in stand-up comedy and music circles, where performers are required to bring a certain number of audience members to secure their performance slot.

2. Slam

Slams introduce an element of competition to poetry events, featuring poets battling it out on stage. Numerous variations of this format exist. In a traditional-style slam, inspired by Marc Smith, a group of poets perform before a panel of judges, often chosen from the audience. These judges assign scores ranging from 0 to 10, with the highest and lowest scores usually dropped to avoid bias. The poet with the highest overall score emerges as the winner. Different slams may employ alternative scoring systems, incorporate heats or one-on-one face-offs, or even use established poets or publishers as judges. Themes or specific prompts can also be introduced. Guest hosts, featured poets, or headliners may add extra value to the slam event. Variations like 'Dead Poets' (where deceased poets' works are performed), intentionally presenting the worst poetry, or impromptu compositions further subvert the traditional slam structure.

Slams were initially designed to attract non-poetry enthusiasts to poetry events, leveraging competition and an edgier name to broaden the appeal. The use of judges aimed to break down the perception of poets as revered figures, leveling the playing field. However, the nature of slams remains contentious, as some argue that poetry requires contemplation beyond the heat of the moment to be accurately assessed.

3. Showcase

Showcase events focus on booked talent, where every artist on the lineup is promoted as a reason to attend. Typically featuring fewer poets than open mic events, showcases offer performers an extended time slot to captivate the audience. Each poet participating in the showcase is an established artist known for delivering high-quality work. The lineup may be organized in order of top billing and support or listed equally, depending on the type of showcase.

In most cases (though not always), poets are compensated for their performances, as their ability to draw an audience and generate sales is recognized.

4. One-Person Show

Some poets create shows built around a central theme or narrative. These shows can feature multiple characters, but often revolve around the poet presenting their work. Music accompaniment may be incorporated to enhance emotional moments or guide the flow of the performance. These shows often tour nationally and sometimes even internationally. Occasionally, they take on the format of "An Evening With…" allowing the poet to share a selection of their work in a more intimate and relaxed setting.

While these four formats represent the most common types of live poetry events, it's worth noting that there are numerous other innovative approaches that defy these molds. Poetry is an experimental art form, and events should

 reflect that spirit of exploration and creativity, offering something new and exciting to captivate the audience.