mrjerrycupples asked:What are the advantages/disadvantages of reading off of paper or a book at a competitive slam rather than having the piece memorized?!?
Advantages of memorization: When you’re not holding a paper or a book you are more free to gesture. You also lose a lot of facial expression and eye contact when reading off paper since you’re looking down. At most slams a decent number of the poets will be memorized so reading off paper can make you look unprepared in the eyes of an audience member.
Advantages of reading from the page: Having paper means you have access to a larger number of poems. Back when I was slamming competitively a lot I probably had 6 to 8 poems memorized that number is probably 3 or 4 right now. Depending on how quickly/easily you memorize you might want to keep paper copies of poems just so you have options strategy wise. i.e. if someone does a poem that is similar in content to one of your memorized pieces right before you have to go up you might want to pull out one of your papers.
Thoughts: Especially at the local level of slam competition it’s fair to expect a poet will sometimes read off of paper. Local competitions usually have regular attendees and occur multiple times a year reading from the page allows you as a writer to showcase new work more frequently and help keep things fresh for your audience and peers.
Some people are very good at being able to look up frequently while reading others don’t seem to have mastered this art. For me the key is being familiar with my work. I make sure to have read a piece I want to perform a few times that day so even if it’s not memorized I have a better idea of the cadence and narrative of the piece and can easily look away from the page to engage the audience.
If there is a music stand use it. It frees up both your hands. If you need glasses to read from paper make sure to bring them. An audience loses your all of your facial expression if you hold the page in front of your face.
For audience/slam judges it should always be kept in mind that there are several reasons a poet might not be able to memorize and if they are still being engaging performers don’t dock them for it.
Apparently I have a lot of thoughts on this topic. Hope the answer was helpful!