Step onto open mic stage with confidence

Sunday , May 07, 2017 - 12:00 AM

TX. Correspondent

Not too long ago, I shared with you my introduction to performing slam poetry. Since then, I’ve tried to cultivate my interest even further by attending more of my school’s poetry club meetings and finding ways to perform for more public audiences.

My favorite and most often utilized opportunity is the open mic nights hosted by Grounds For Coffee on Ogden’s Historic 25th Street. On the first Friday of every month, from about 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the coffee shop hosts high school students, community members, and poets of all ages and origins for a fun night of amateur performances, local art and more.

These events have proven to be an amazing tool for budding poets like me. Performing at an open mic gives us a chance to present works that have never seen the light of day, and to see how a diverse and enthusiastic audience reacts to them. It also gives us a chance to experience different forms of poetry that we might not have had a chance to hear or write before.

If you’re considering trying a performance at an open mic, specifically the open mic at Grounds For Coffee, I have a few tips for you:

• Have a plan before you start. If you go up to the microphone with nothing but your script, you’re not going to be nearly as emotionally engaging as you need to be. Poetry is all about using rhythm and words to have a strong impact on people, and if you don’t know what kind of impact you want, and don’t perform accordingly, you’ll be disappointed with the consequences. Be prepared!

• Look over your writing and find climaxes. These could be interesting rhymes, places where the subject changes or heats up, or lines that you just think are clever. When you find these climaxes, mark them so you don’t miss them when you’re performing, and exaggerate them. Don’t be afraid to speak louder, or even shout! The audience at Grounds For Coffee is always engaging and enthusiastic, so being expressive at the right times will almost always benefit you.

• Take mental notes. While you’re performing, take mental notes of the audience’s reactions and write them down after you finish. When you are reading a line that is supposed to hit the audience hard, watch their facial expressions and body language as you speak and see if the poetry had the effect you intended.

Depending on the mood, your audience might respond loudly and verbally, or they might be shocked into silence. If you don’t get a reaction, make a note on it and try something different the next time. Maybe you could read it in a more dramatic tone, or use a different rhythm, or change the wording a bit. Being able to see a live audience’s reaction to your work is one the biggest advantages of attending an open mic event – take advantage of it!

• Finally, talk to people afterward.  At Grounds For Coffee, the environment is very friendly and focused on encouraging local artists to keep doing what they do. Most of the people there are either writers themselves or enjoy watching poetry, and either way, they must be dedicated to the craft if they’re listening to high school poets perform on a Friday night.

Try talking to your friends or other people your own age to see if they relate to the experiences or feelings you’re describing. If you notice someone being very responsive while you’re performing, try speaking to them and find out why they had such a noticeable reaction. Of course, still use common sense while communicating with your audience: don’t intrude on their own conversation, share any personal information, or press for more personal details about them. Be polite, kind, and focus on the art – this is all about the art!

Still a bit nervous to get on the stage? Starting at Grounds For Coffee is a comfortable and effective way to begin. It’s great if you’re trying to get more serious about writing and performing poetry, and along the way, it’s very likely that you’ll make new friends, connect with old ones, and learn a lot more about yourself and your abilities.

Your first performance provides a foundation to build on, and with the encouraging atmosphere and some new experience tucked under your belt, you’ll definitely start to see yourself improve and gain confidence about your work.

The open mic events at Grounds For Coffee take place every month, including during summer vacation and other school breaks. Check out the coffee shop’s Facebook page for more information if you’re interested in attending. Remember, everyone is welcome, whether you perform or just want to watch. We hope to see you there!

London Cummings is a junior at Fremont High School. She thinks Marvel movies are awesome and wants to travel the world, although she spends most of her time on Tumblr. Email her at 

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