Spoken Word Soirée

Spoken Word Soirée

Let me share with you a memory from Paris.

I attended a Spoken Word night put on by the famous book store Shakespeare and Co, in a time that feels like a lifetime ago. It was as you would imagine. I descended stairs into a slightly musty lower level room of an artists bar that served cheap drinks to the young boys with broken hats.

The lights were low as I entered. Everyone was silent, but nodded in my direction as if to say Welcome, friend. Sit down with us. 

I sat. The MC continued on his ramblings that somehow made so much sense. He had a drawl as if he were drunk, a kind of Jack Sparrow charm. But he drove open the path for the poets by entrancing us with little stories and anecdotes. He was the best raconteur I had seen speak to a crowd of strangers. He introduced a theme, that which I cannot remember, and the first poet. A french boy. This was an english spoken word event, yet his French was a poignant reminder that we were in France. He wore a striped boat neck top as if he had no idea that this was stereotypical of how the world sees French people. He was so natural, so authentic – just as he was. He spoke, not looking at anyone. Using his hands conservatively, I could see that with time his words would permeate through his arms to the tips of his fingers. A girl came up next. She recited Victor Hugo and Jean Racine with a passion that had me leaning in. Striking and so cool; Her head was shaved and she burst onto the makeshift stage. Thirsty to use every second of her allocated 5 minutes. She spoke until that bell rang. Falling silent as if she had been shot, mid sentence.
The first time I was ever asked to bring a piece of poetry to a party, I brought ‘Bright Star’ by John Keats. This was years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. I did not realise at the time it was a famous poem, but how could it not be? The composition is just perfect.

The Spoken Word Poetry Soirée
Your lounge room is filled with candles and many stools in intimate arrangement. A lectern is at the head and has been fashioned out of stacked books fixed with leather belts. The homage to literature and creativity is poignant. There is wine and a soft background hum of music that is entwined with hushed voices and clinking glasses. The MC of the night begins his address and guests begin their decent into the night…
Have I set the scene for you?
A soirée does not always have to be a rambunctious debaucherous affair. It is equally as inspiring and satisfying in experience to temper the mood and fill it with an activity such as this.
The Theme
For a sense of flow to the night, provide a theme for your guests. The theme is not for dress, but for the piece of poetry they choose to share. Of course, I am never shy of a dress theme – that is your prerogative! Some suggestions for a theme: Correspondence, The senses, propaganda, romantic love, beat poetry… whatever you wish.
Inform your guests with plenty of time to find their pieces of poetry and to practise. They may recite, or write – either is fabulous. Remember, the theme is loose – its more of a feeling, there are no right or wrongs.
The Format of the Soiree
The Master of Ceremonies will introduce the night and the theme. Names will be placed in a top hat and selected at random to dictate the sequence of poets. Five minutes will be timed for each performer and you will receive a sweet little bell tinkle at 4 and a half minutes so you know you are close. After half the poets have performed, the MC will introduce the main act. This piece will be an extended 15-20 minute long performance (see below).
The Main Performance
Prior to the evening, invite one of your fabulous friends to be the main performance of the night. Their role is to read, recite or perform something that goes for about 15 to 20 minutes. Something with daring, with a build up and with a spectacular ending! If there is no one to take this role, break up the night with a short film, perhaps a musical performance.. be creative. This is an essential moment during the soiree as it signals the time from evening into night…
The Master of Ceremonies
This must be a character. Someone who has a thousand stories. Someone whom can introduce people in a fantastic fashion, cause laughter and spontaneous clapping. Whom is directed by their charms and wits and whom warms an ice cold room with their presence. The MC must indulge their theatrical nature and keep the format in place so that all the souls in the room have their place to shine… Remember – the MC knows the rules and also knows how to break them. The night is is their hands – so choose this person wisely!
Atmosphere Notes – This is essential reading!
A successful evening of spoken word poetry rests on the atmosphere. Heed the following
  • Low lighting in the seating area – candles, candles, candles.
  • All phones off
  • Ensure that there is a little spotlight on the lectern so that the poet can see what they are reading
  • Cushions = Comfort! This is a seated event – make sure it is comfortable!
  • Think about the temperature
  • Place water jugs and wine around the room strategically for little disturbances to the the performing poet.
  • Find a darling bell with a wonderful jingle, you will be hearing it over and over after all.


Now, for some inspiration:

The Complete Poems of John Keats

Poems by Edna St Vincent Millay

E E Cummings: Complete Poems

Sylvia Plath Poems

Poems of Maya Angelou

The Flowers of Evil by Baudelaire

Shakespeare’s Sonnets

The Complete works of Edgar Allen Poe

8 thoughts on “Spoken Word Soirée

  1. First of all I love your blog name and secondly your spoken poetry was beautiful I am a writer and a poet myself and have always found words more beautiful than anything else. Words have the power to change the world, to influence our thoughts and behaviors and above all determine our function on earth.

    1. Hi Ana, thank you for such a beautiful comment. Spoken word is so inspiring and it does have that power – keep writing! Keep inspiring! You have a wonderful purpose on this earth.

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