Frequently Asked Questions and hints for poets

Can you help me publish my poetry?
No. But keep reading.

I'm not a poet - can I come?
Yes! You're what we crave most -- an audience.

I, ahem, think I might be a poet. Can I come?
Yes. Perth Poetry Club is a weekly poetry performance and reading event in Perth, Western Australia, with featured guests and lots of brief open mike slots. Everyone is welcome, and that means you. Just turn up!

Do I have to read a poem?
No. You don't even have to listen! But we do ask that you allow other people to listen.

Do I have to read my own poems?
No. People often share their favourites from books and other media.

Can kids come?
Yes. People sometimes bring children. The venue is a public restaurant. You can even bring a pram, although a baby sling might be less hassle.

Is it family-friendly?
If by 'family-friendly' you mean do we try to stop poets using 'swear' words and mentioning sex -- no.

Am I too old?
Only if you think you are. Our oldest regular is in his eighties. The organisers, at the time of writing, are aged between 21 and 62.

Can you sell my book at your gigs?
No, but you can, if it's poetry and you ask us nicely. It'll probably help if you read a poem from it in the open mike and put three or four copies on our book table. Please take the unsold copies home to your garret or McMansion at the end of the gig.

May I make an announcement at Perth Poetry Club?
If your announcement is brief, if it's substantially related to poetry, and if you also read a poem, you may do so in open mike. Please check with the MC or organiser first.

May I sell raffle tickets, artwork, etc, at Perth Poetry Club?
If they have poetry on them or if you're fundraising for a poetry project, yes, if you ask us nicely and there's room for them on the book table. Otherwise, no.

Can you promote my event? Can you distribute my flyer?
If it's a Perth poetry event we'd love to include it in our weekly newsletter and if there's time, announce it at our gigs. About 3 weeks beforehand please send us a 20 to 50 word blurb written in normal English containing all the important information. As for your flyer -- no, but you can: please bring it to Perth Poetry Club for the book table and see 'May I make an announcement...' above.

Can I be a featured guest? Pleeease?
It's been a while -- when can I feature again?
How can I get a gig somewhere -- anywhere?

Don't beg organisers for gigs. It makes you look like you're having trouble getting them. Instead, support the gig (ours and anyone's) by performing regularly in open mike, arriving before the start, staying until the end to hear the other poets, and generally joining in. If the gig is not overly nepotistic and you're good enough to entertain the audience, eventually you'll be asked.

Occasionally letting organisers know you're available and sending them your promotional materials is cool, though. CVs of previous guest appearances and links to videos are particularly helpful. A good time to do this is in November when some groups (not us -- see below!) plan their annual programme.

If you're travelling, do your research and write to the locals as soon as you can. Poets visiting from country Western Australia and further-flung parts -- we'll give you a gig if we can (unless your sample poems are ghastly!) but it helps if you can let us know in advance that you're coming.

Perth poets. Perth Poetry Club has a lengthy and systematic list of poets we want to feature and when it's your turn you'll be asked. This will probably happen about once every 12-18 months or so. If you've got a book coming out or whatever, do let us know, though.

Who are you?
To see who is running things and who is handling the bookings, look at the Peeps page. To contact us, use the Contact Us page.

Hints for performing and reading

Rehearse aloud at home and time your performance, allowing time for applause and unexpected occurrences. Exceeding the allowed timeslot without getting permission ahead of time is unprofessional and annoys the audience, the other poets and the organisers.

Rehearse aloud until you pretty well know your work. Then, even if you still read from a written text, you can spend most of the time looking at the audience and sending your voice out to them.

Watch other performers closely and see what works and what doesn't. Everyone you watch, however boring their performance, has something to teach you.

The person who announced you to the audience and seems to be in charge of proceedings is called the MC (Master/Mistress of Ceremonies). Doing it well is a tricky balancing act, like walking a tightrope, so make it easy for them. Usually they're the one timing you, so keep an eye on them and before you launch into another poem, get their nod or finger-signal.

Unless you've been trained to use a mike, let the MC adjust it for you. If they forget, ask them.

Poetry gig organisers are human beings, not robots, and even when they are getting paid they're working primarily for the love of poets -- that's you! -- and poetry. If, in your opinion, they make a mistake, please forgive them graciously.

If it seems everyone is always being fascist with you, the problem may lie with your behaviour.

Is my performance any good?
For a particular audience your performance is good if the audience applaud long and loud at the end of it. Does this happen most of the time across a range of audiences, strangers as well as friends? Not yet? Keep practising, keep watching, keep learning.

Is my poetry any good?

Let's just step back a moment here and think about what you're asking.

Any good to whom? Your mother? Your English teacher? Your unrequited love? The editors of Meanjin? Your facebook friends? How about our audience? Come and try out your poetry on our friendly audience and see what happens. The poems that get the most applause are probably the best, at least in a performance context.

Any good compared to what? Whose poetry do you like? If you don't read or listen to poetry you're like a musician who never listens to music, or an artist who never goes near a gallery, and the chances are your work is embarrassingly bad. Reading and hearing other poetry is the best way to learn! Go to the library and get some anthologies! Go to a few gigs! If poetry set to music is your thing, put on a community or alternative radio station and listen to some intelligent hip-hop and interesting lyrics. Then you'll be in a better position to assess your own work. And what you take in will get into your head and influence your writing.

If you'd like to be published, find magazines that publish poetry you like, and send your poetry to lots of them. Most likely they won't publish it, even if it's awesome, because they'll be getting offered 2000 poems for 30 pages of magazine. But if you keep trying, reading, listening, learning and working, chances are you'll get in eventually.

WA Poets Inc publishes poetry by its members (hint!) in its online magazine Creatrix. See our Perth Poetry Links page.

Once you have an idea what works and what doesn't in your writing, you could start a blog and publish your poems online.

Should I self-publish a poetry book?

Again let's take a giant step back and ask why? Why would you want to do that?

For money? No way. Think 'niche market' without the market. The few poets who live by their poetry earn the money mainly by teaching, performing and applying for grants. However, a self-published book with good production and gripping poetry makes an excellent business card -- but you must be prepared to give away many samples.

For recognition? In whose world? If you just want to be famous, publishing a poetry book isn't going to help. If you want to be recognised by the literary establishment (what there is of it) it's better to publish with a well-known small poetry press, however limited their sales may actually be and however much of the marketing you have to do yourself -- and frequently that means most of it. For this to happen your poetry has to appeal to their editors and publishers, which can be limiting. If you choose to avoid these limitations by self-publishing, your book doesn't 'count', from the point of view of literary status, unless it gets reviewed in recognised literary journals. To achieve that, you get to know all the influential people, write poetry they like, give them your book at a lucky moment, and cross all your fingers and toes.

To get more readers? No. Few people buy books by poets they haven't already heard of. If you want to sell your book, establish your readership first by publishing your poetry in magazines and online and performing it at readings. Then be ready to carry sale copies everywhere you go and show them to everyone you meet. Get a backpack.

To change the world? Well, maybe, a little bit, if you can get anyone to read it.

To have fun? To give yourself a focus for producing and finishing your work? To give your fans something to take home? To swap for other poets' books? To have something to read from when a poem is called for? Yes! Yes! Absolutely. It doesn't have to be a full-on book -- most poets begin with much shorter collections called zines or chapbooks.

To impress your mother? No, no, no! Call her when it's not her birthday. Buy her flowers. And write a poem to her.

Where do I find out more? What else is out there for poets?
Read our Perth Poetry Links page. Join WA Poets Inc and some of the other organisations listed there. One of their main purposes is to share information. Join! it's really cheap! And that's how you get in the loop! Not only that, they need your support. And do your research. Look at the rest of our pages, especially Perth Poetry Links. Use Google. Go to a reading and ask a poet -- but first, buy them a drink, or better still, buy their self-published book.