Blog, December 11–Paul Richmond

Notes on Contributors

Setting Up a Protocol for Poetry, Spoken Word Events

Here’s one we came up with:

We instituted sand timers; three or five minute sand timers depending on the event and the number of writers. When a writer comes up to read they turn over the sand timer. When the sand is gone they are gone.

Many of us have had the experience of being at a reading where the MC asks that people to read one poem or to keep it short due to time and the number of people who want to read. And of course, there is always someone who comes up with a 50-page poem who implies this is one of their shorter ones. Or they have a whole story about the poem that takes a half an hour. Or they have the attitude, of course you want to hear one more. There is also the anxiousness of an audience when there is someone they don’t like going on and on and the awkwardness of getting them off. There are many situations you probably have experienced or can imagine.

What has happened by us setting up the sand timers is we have created an agreement among everyone, writer and audience. So that when the sand runs out the MC can just point to the timer, it had nothing to do with if we like your work or not, your time is gone. This also eliminates the need for someone to look at their watch, and then argue with the writer when they started to time, etc. The writer turns over the sand timer, or is reminded to turn it over and when it runs out you are done. The audience seems to relax since they know there is a set time and this has actually opened people up to someone they may first not like, since the tension of “how long will this go on” is taken away. Of course you still have people who try to go on, but it is much easier getting them to comply with everyone knowing the rules of engagement. Just one idea that has worked.

 

Trackbacks

  1. […] We instituted sand timers; three or five minute sand timers depending on the event and the number of writers. When a writer comes up to read they turn over the sand timer. When the sand is gone they are gone. More… […]