Sunday, 4 October 2015


This day's topic, STRIPES, takes me to my earliest scanning and reading of comics, and the military characters featured there.

STRIPES always signified AUTHORITY, and even the lowliest member of a Force who carried stripes on his sleeve (always men "back then") was mocked and rather mistrusted and disliked by "ordinary" soldiers, sailors and airmen.

As my father had risen to the rank of Warrant Officer First Class in the RAF, and would have worn insignia, though I never saw him in uniform, I did not go along with the common certainty that anyone with stripes must be a bastard - I preferred to believe that "earning your stripes" is necessary to gain respect in any walk of life.

So, I should like to consider what it means to "earn one's stripes" in poetry.

I guess that for most of us, being encouraged to "read aloud" in infant and junior school may well be our first encounter with poems, and rhyming and regular rhythm are probably typical characteristics.  A large number of pupils hate this as they fear being mocked for mispronunciations or stumbles, and never progress to featuring at Spoken Word activities where memorising by heart is often required.
To me this progression enabled me to gain great enjoyment from acting in plays and performing in Public Speaking Contests.

It is not usually until we join a workforce that ease in self-presentation becomes valued and used daily.  And this is especially so if one writes poetry and is expected to "perform" it at, for instance, Open Mic. events.

The best form of practice is "doing it", and finding a sympathetic audience in your locality has always been the best form of learning - initially it is more about learning to overcome your own trepidation, and that can be overcome through practice to your long-suffering partner or even the cat, than about earning prolonged applause.  

Practise the rhythm of your delivery.  

Where should an emphasis be made?  

When does the flow require a pause?  

Make your audience respond to you by making eye-contact.

All of this normally follows having probably several of your poems published preferably in different poetry magazines to prove to yourself that your work can appeal to quite different editorial tastes.

Publication helps you to "earn your stripes", but an audience "in the flesh" applauding your work seems to be regarded as much more of an accolade in 2015.

Numerous online outlets are also available to you - Seek; Find; Contribute.

Best of Good Fortune in all your poetic endeavours.



Adele said...

Nice to hear your sage advice Christo. The open mic nights at Silantro produce some great performances. We meet again there on 6th November.