tips on memorizing poems (2)

now that you have finishes memorizing your poem, i am assuming that you are going to try to read it somewhere or mutter it to yourself at work to keep nasty co-workers at bay- your choice, partner. for argument’s sake, lets go with the first option…


i say, leave the paper home. dont even bring it with you to the spot. i mean, if you haven’t got it memorized yet, trying to sneak in a few readings of it at the venue is not going to make much of a difference.

some folks do bring the paper with them and even take it onstage. my opinion- this is a cop out. if you dont think you can do it with out the page then don’t. end of text.


no intros, no explanations. these are just more cop outs. dont try to get audience

sympathy with-

“i just memorized this”

“first time from memory…”

i say- just go up there, adjust the mic, get your breath, plant your feet, (UH OH! AUDIENCE BANTER! please ignore. its just folks looking for extra spotlight. if they really love you, they’ll just let you do your poem. you are under no obligation to reply to anything they say. there will be plenty of time for that later.), take a swig of water and go for it.

optional- tell them the title. i like doing it cuz i think its an important part of the poem but to each their own. note- if its “untitled” then dont say that… not a rule just one of my pet peeves.

stay in your rhythm. respect applause and laughter but dont calculate that into your memorization process. notice what happens when real funny mofos (like shappy & beau) hit the stage. they keep their flow goin regardless of laughter. bad ass = comedy.

THE AFTERMATH (you nailed it!)

when you finish- take a breath, step back from the mic, give the audience some kind of signal to applause (bow, kiss your heart, tap the mic- whatever you like), say a lil sumthin (“thanks” is just fine), and WALK AWAY A WINNER.

if you want to have a breakdown, wait till the next person hits the mic and then lose it. likewise, if you feeling extra jubilant, dont pump your fist in the air & go all ROCKY up there.

THE AFTERMATH (you blew it onstage!)

OK! You Fucked Up! no worries. the earth is still spinning. if you blow a line- try to repeat the ones before it till you find the line again.

helpful hint- keep your mouth shut when you are not saying anything. if its all open and sheet, we are going to expect something to come out.

check it- i fucked up “mercy on the bettlefield” at least three times on the CD recording. no one was the wiser. why? cuz i just kept on truckin. when in doubt, hit the gas. only a select few will know that you messed up and trust me (a seriously cynical bastich) none of them will shout you out.

if you really blank out. ef it! if you are close to the end of the poem- PUNCH OUT, MAVERICK! call it quits right there and leave the stage (still bow, be gracious and troop like a champ), go to a nice quiet spot, and bang your head with a shoe or have a shot. your choice but theres always tomorrow, scarlet.


all this advice comes from a person that at heart is a serious introvert. i am not a fan of glory hogs or people that insist on talking all the time. (i know… kettle meet pot) the point being is that this is the system that works for me and what i would recommend if you were a friend that was asking me for advice. if you do all the above and don’t feel comfortable- change it around, mix & match, bob & weave.

i got one more thing to add to this but we’ll save it for another day…

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