Spoken word poems are all about the performance. It may seem like you can choose any words you like, as long as you deliver them well. Delivery is important, but good preparation when composing rap or spoken word is what makes for a truly great performance.
Do choose your words carefully. Even though you’ll be speaking it quickly, your goal is still to convey a message and evoke a feeling in your audience. Think about other poems you like. They make good use of long or esoteric words to make their rhymes stand out. Write or speak from experience, and try to always tell the truth.
Don’t lie. Your audience will be able to know if you aren’t being authentic, and it will make your performance fall flat. It is better to recite a poem about the difficulty of growing up misunderstood in the suburbs if that is the truth than it is to lie and say you grew up in the ghetto. You’ll lose respect quickly if your audience sees you as a poser. Writing what you know and love will create a performance that feels genuine to your audience.
Do structure your words spoken word poems performances are different from other kinds of performances, but they still require structure, even if you are making them up on the spot. Try to put the rhymes in the same general place each time, and return to a common refrain or chorus.
Don’t use vulgar language. When you’re starting out in reciting a spoken word poem, it is a bad idea to insult others. It just opens your work to criticism. Creating a spectacular poem is the best way to show you are better than the competition.
Do use inspiration. It is natural to model your work after the work of others, especially when you are starting out. When you are going through the creative process, let anything and everything inspires you. Recite and let everything flow through you. You don’t want to shut out the muse by limiting yourself. Keep all your thoughts together in a journal, notebook, or binder. Keep revising your work until it is truly your own.
Don’t plagiarize. While it is good to allow your inspiration to come from anywhere and everywhere while you are in the process of composing, don’t allow other people’s work to be present in the finished product unless you have paid to sample their poems. Anything else is stealing. If you are unsure of whether or not you have plagiarized, perform your piece for someone else, along with the poems you used for inspiration. Ask if your work is distinct enough from the other works. If not, you must go back and revise.
Do have fun. When you’ve put in the work and you are finally performing your piece, let your love of the art form shine through. Put your soul into the words, let go of your inhibitions, and let yourself fly.