Gender & Identity, Life

5 types of poets you will definitely see at an open mic night

"Why don't you describe me, my body, or my soul like this?"

I love all things spoken word, so, so much. At a lot of open mics and slam competitions, you get to meet some amazing writers and performers and great people in general. With the snaps, the “Don’t be nice, be nasty!” cheers, and the yelling. I tend to feel very much at home whenever engaging in the spoken word community.

But poets are not all the same in this respect or in their craft. It is not easy to craft a written work of art.

And although there are various types of poets with their various forms of general makeup, there are five types that I always see at a poetry slam. Always! It’s a total given now.

So, without further ado, here are the five types of poets you’ll see at a poetry slam. Especially for those going out to one downtown or somewhere else in your area soon.

1. The Spiritual One

This person is always ready to perform a piece about finding your center, and a piece that has extraneous metaphors about Jesus, Buddha, or something about finding your center in this ever-evolving world we live in. You’ll usually tend to like these types of poets, because they’re pretty chill and is always grateful for your presence when you meet them, and willing to present to you some new ideals.

They say things like “Gift me with your name” and “I am blessed to meet you.” How sweet is that? Just be careful when they go first, because sometimes, they have some really long poems about how they or their mother are like a tree, and you never know when they will end sometimes. Not that the poem about the trees isn’t great, or that “time is nothing but a concept” in the art world, but the three minute time limit seems longer than usual.

2. The Self-Entitled One

Their poetry does not suck. In fact, their poems are excellent. They have the right amount of cultural references, while maintaining a nice fluid structure, and sometimes a pretty sweet rhyme scheme that is intricate and not simple. However, outside of their performing, they suck as people. They’re real competitive jerks. They believe that they are the absolute best poets in the room, thinking “Oh, how could God create such excellence that so few can understand?” about themselves.

They are way too critical of other poets’ work when they don’t have to be, they are too critical about mainstream content when they say things like “I could write something better,” and yet they still accomplish one of their goals of getting laid that night. Stop perpetuating the “people like assholes” trope, people!

3. The Green One

This type of poet is very new to spoken word poetry. They may be a little shaky when first getting onstage, but they’ll be sure to be welcomed with open arms. Or if they aren’t shaky, they’re the most excited person there, waiting for their name or their team’s name to be called. People are sure to shout “Ay, new shit!” (it’s a compliment, trust me) and “You got this, poet!”

And one of the three things might happen with this poet: (a) the poet struggles with the mic and musters through their well written piece, (b) the poet performs superbly with their well written piece making you all “Whoa, you’ve never done this before?”, (c) the poet starts off slow, and then as they hear other people snapping, they become more confident and finish the poem well.

4. The Theatrical One

I really like these kind of poets. They have a poem memorized at its fullest, like a monologue. It’s as if they remember where every I was dotted and every T was crossed when they first wrote it. Sometimes their poems have more than one voice in it they’re portraying by themselves, or one solo persona voice. They really find their niche here.

They have the largest gestures and often the most creative structures as to making the audience not know where their poem is going next in the three minutes they have (three minutes and ten seconds if they need a grace period). Poets aren’t allowed to use props in competition, but that’s actually not a problem for these poets. Their whole body, the various intonations of their voices, and their play of a poem are their props. They’re good to go!

5. The Sexy One

I’m not talking about in forms of looks. Although, sometimes, you may run into someone with a really nice, sleek skirt, or a sexy jacket. I’m talking about the content of their poems. Love, intimacy, and passion are their best pieces. Especially if they have the soft, sultry kind of voices you hear in chocolate commercials, or romantic film voice overs. If you ever need a Valentine for your sweetheart, they are your go-to. You may start to think “Please, please, go out with me.”

Or, even worse, you may whisper to your significant other, “Why don’t you describe me, my body, or my soul like this?” If they tell you that they have never gotten someone’s phone number after reading one of their poems, they are LYING. And totally accomplished getting laid if they wanted to do that, or even if the opportunity came to them.

I have competed in the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational with my university’s slam team for the past two years now, and I have been an active member of spoken word circles for almost four years now, and these kind of people never cease to exist. And it’s always exciting to get to know these people and more people to see what they’re all about in their poems.

  • Maya Williams

    Maya Williams has her Bachelor’s in Social Work and Bachelor’s in English from East Carolina University. She also has her Master’s in Social Work and Certificate in Applied Arts and Social justice from the University of New England. She has published articles and poems on sites such as The Tempest, INTER, Black Girl Nerds, Multiracial Media, GlitterMOB, and Soft Cartel. In her spare time, she enjoys writing and performing spoken word poetry, facilitating writing workshops for youth, and watching movies/musicals.