Meep Meep! – Creative Identity and Social Media
I’m an active poet and performer in the London area. Poetry has been a great way for me to explore my own identity – so I wanted to share with you how to do live performances and use social media to build your very own audience.
Having spoken to a number of fledgling wordsmiths on the scene, we all agree that writing for the page and writing to perform is completely different.
One friend, a brilliant writer, whom I badgered for some time to let me share her delicious physically wrought verse in my anthology (Black, white and red volume: 1) believes that poetry should remain on the page.
A London based poet and organiser of poetry nights, on the other hand, admitted to reading other peoples poetry in front of a mirror out loud to try and feel the piece as the author once did.
It can be easy to feel judged when we stand up and share our poetry. Chances are the first time you hit the microphone is that you will be reading something very personal and very precious, your own words.
The creative community is a supportive community (we’ve all gone ‘been there’), despite a certain amount of professional competitiveness.
I find that feedback is always worthwhile. I’d rather have negative feedback than no feedback at all. Better to hit a nerve than hit nothing at all. It is part of why I do open mics, the reaction of the crowd to a piece is priceless.
How often, or whether, you can physically perform in front of an audience depends on a number of factors:
Money (travel costs, entrance fees, food and drink), is a contentious issue. I understand poets and venues need money, but if you’re performing on the open mics and paying a full entrance fee it can feel a little bit mercenary sometimes. After all, it tends to be the open mic performers themselves who bring the numbers in (their friends and family).
Physical factors, ill health or disability may make some venues impractical or simply impossible.
Mental health issues may be a problem for some too. Stage fright is bad enough without stacking anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, claustrophobia and many other potential causes of mental anguish on top.
And of course time, if you’re working or have family and other commitments these can prove difficult to juggle with regular weekly performances.
So if an open mic is not for you, there are other ways to get your words out there.
Facebook offers you status updates to post up written pieces, but it will clip the text off at a point, so for someone to read the full piece they will need to click into the post. Very few people leave feedback on Facebook so it can feel like you’re dropping a splash of pigment into an ocean of techno-colour.
Alternatively you can join a group such as Poetry in London, the traffic posting on a group such as this is likely to be much more receptive than your gaggle of digital or physical friends (especially if you’re just coming out as a writer). But it may be lost in the crowd.
You could collage your work into an image, or record a video of your performance and share this on a Facebook page or group for your work to create a slightly more exclusive audience for your work, or if perhaps you don’t wish some of your “friends” to see your work.
Internet Radio and audio sharing sites
There are a number of Internet Radio stations which have weekly literature based shows. You can submit a poem and they will read it on air for you.
This in my mind is a bit like handing a loaded gun to a stranger. I prefer recording my own work myself and posting it on a great creative website called Audioboom.com, which is great for musicians and singers as well as spoken word artists.
I have found recording myself reading (warning 18+ content) has had a great knock on effect to my performance, giving me insight on timing and the access to vary how I read and review each performance.
You can upload or record directly onto the website itself. Most mobile phones will allow you to record your voice and save the file for use. Registration is free and you can record up to ten minutes on a free account per recording. From the website you can share a link with Twitter or Facebook.
I had the pleasure to meet a great up and coming spoken word artist called “Big Charlie Poet”. He performed at an open mic night called Evidently in Salford which films performers on the night and uploads the videos to its own YouTube channel. Through this he has received a much wider coverage for his excellent piece called “It’s the Grit which makes the Pearl”.
The brilliant Jackie Hagan performs Coffee and TV on stage on the site, a thoughtful and provoking piece about sexuality which has impact even though the video quality is less good.
Uploading videos to YouTube is a little like Facebook, it’s easy to be ignored. So, this needs to be just a part of your strategy if you want to promote yourself more widely.
I was encouraged to use Twitter by my friend Tara Fleur Patrick and I am so glad I took her advice. 144 characters is a wonderful challenge and being a poet who errs on the terse side I have fallen in love (or at least become infatuated) with the medium. Here is one of my Twitter Poems.
Bigger on the inside
Like a Tardis
The wind blew
Around his shell
Into his brain
Creating a social media presence
At open mics there are often excellent amateur photographers to take pictures of you whilst on stage. These pictures can be used both to raise your public profile and promote the venue too.
On creating my AudioBoom and Twitter accounts I decided to invent a professional persona: Poet of Beard. It’s a little more memorable than Thomas Smith, and rolls off the tongue.
With my second volume of Poetry looming I will be taking advantage of all these methods of putting my work out there. Good luck and put your best post forward.
Thomas Smith aka Poet of Beard is an active poet and performer currently living just outside London. He believe that creativity is for the majority, and we all have a voice. Find Tom on Facebook or buy his first volume of poetry for Kindle here.