Monday, May 22, 2006

What to Wear for Your Poetry Performance

Although this blog is mainly to showcase various journaling tips and suggestions, I devote a sizeable portion of my posts to the topic of writing poetry and how to survive as a poet.

When someone reads one of your poems on the printed page, all they see of you are black words on white paper. Don't, however, adapt this same color scheme for a live stage performance. Nothing plays more neutral on stage than white (according to my stage set teacher back when) and wearing a white shirt/blouse/t-shirt on stage is about as exciting as a glass of skim milk.

Ditto black or very dark pants. What is this, a noh drama? Are you a non-entity from the waist down? I don't care if you're fat, skinny, big-breasted or flat chested. You are putting yourself, your poems, your heart and your soul out there on stage, whether at a one-poem open reading slot or a 20-minute feature. So show your colors!

I don't mean Ringling Brothers colors, Halloween costumes or Vegas glitz. But show a little style. Your style. And if your ordinary style is a white t-shirt and torn jeans, then try out your fantasy style for one night. You're having fun. Wear a hat, a scarf, some wild earrings. Make your voice, presence and poetry memorable.

One of my books, "Swimmer's Prayer" carries the aqua mosaic pattern of a swimming pool on the cover. I'll sometimes match up my outfit with the same mermaid-aqua colors to carry out the theme.

If you're a mama falling out of her bra, you might want to bypass a low-cut top, and even wear a strategically tied scarf to fall in-between your breasts. Take a tip from the female flamenco dancers. Visualize how they tie shawls in front of themselves while dancing. They want their audiences to focus on their feet, dancing and costume, not on the jiggle show. And you want the poetry crowd to look at you while you perform, not at your breasts.

Flat-chested and self-conscious? A ruffled blouse and a structured jewel-colored velvet jacket conceals and feminizes at the same time. Adding casual pants and pointy shoes can make a hip contrast.

Guys with a big gut? The jacket thing works for you, too. But don't wear a v-neck white t-shirt underneath, especially if you're hairy. Think crew-neck and color.

Dressing up doesn't mean dressing conservatively or predictably, and dressing down doesn't mean you should reserve your imagination for your poems only.

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