How to Read at a Poetry Open Mic


Photo: Cadaverine Launch Reading

What’s a Poetry Open Mic? How do I take part and where can I find one?

What is Open Mic?

An Open Mic event is one where anyone can perform their poems. You don’t need to be famous or published, anyone can have a go.

How do I find  an Open Mic night?

You can get listings from the Young Writers Hub, the Poetry Library, the Scottish Poetry Library or Literature Wales, plus you can find local literature organisations on our Poetry Opportunities Page. If you are in London you can check out the listings of the Poetry Café in Covent Garden where there are regular Open Mic events. Remember if you are under 18 to check the details of the event before hand and try to contact the organisers, as many Open Mics may take place at venues with a minimum age!

How to take part?

Each organisation runs their event slightly differently, but usually you just arrive (on time!) and give your name to the organiser.

How will I know when it’s my turn?

A host will lead the event, introducing poets to the stage and letting you know when to go up. They will try to make the event welcoming and friendly for everyone, if you’re nervous or it’s your first time reading let them know.

How long should I read?

Open Mic nights usually allocate reading slots either by time or number of poems. Some organisers have a bell after five minutes so readers won’t run on, so make sure you time yourself introducing and reading your poem beforehand to see how long your set takes. If the slots are allocated by number of poems (usually 1 or 2) don’t read an epic, keep it under a page!

What’s “Hollywooding” and why is it A Bad Thing?

“Hollywooding” is reading in the first half and then leaving at the interval, like an A-list star who is photographed on the red carpet but doesn’t stick around for the movie. It’s rude, and to be avoided at all costs.

Myths of the Near Future

Open Mic and Myths on the Near Future Launch at the Poetry Café 5 May.

NB This event has now passed.

We’re inviting you to take part in an Open Mic event at the Poetry Café in London’s Covent Garden. The reading is in celebration of NAWE’s new poetry ezine Myths of the Near Future and will open with longer readings by contributors to the first issue. Following the interval there will be an Open Mic session where you can read your poems!

You can sign up to read on the night (not in advance) , however if you are on Facebook please RSVP, and please bring friends along to hear you read. You will have the chance to read either one or two poems depending on how many poets attend the event. We’re going to be a mixed bunch so when you are selecting what to read please try to avoid poems with graphic violence, sex or swearing.

Everyone is welcome to come to listen and to help celebrate the launch of Myths of the Near Future, however the open mic slots are reserved for poets aged no more than 25.

Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London, WC2H 9BX

Any questions please email the education team [email protected]

Published April, 2012

15 thoughts on “How to Read at a Poetry Open Mic

    1. Hi Scarlett, if there’s no mention of age then its 25 and under. Sometimes we have challenges targeted at lower age groups but these will be clearly marked.

  1. I am a professor who teaches poetry a lot and write essays at And I would add a few things.
    1. Make sure you know all the meanings of all the words.
    2. Just like it’s important not to skip words, it’s essential not to give any single word too much importance.
    3. In addition to sentences (and phrases…) attend to the form. A sonnet, for instance, organizes ideas in particular patterns, and those contribute greatly to the meaning.
    4. Do all the things the article suggests, then come back to the poem in a few weeks to see what NOT paying attention to it adds to your understanding (we underestimate the ‘back burner’ of our mind’s stove too often).
    Yes, read aloud: language always kives in breath.
    Yes, memorise, for then the poem is truly yours (they call it ‘committing’ to memory because it is a commitment).

    1. Hi Rajkumar,

      The event mentioned in this feature is from 2012, so I’m afraid you can’t perform at it! However, hopefully there are open mics near you.

      Best of luck,

      Helen at Young Poets Network

    1. Hi Sangqa, it’s great to hear you’re looking to read your poetry at an open mic! Whereabouts are you living at the moment? Try to find a local writing or poetry organisation as they may have some suggestions.

      Best wishes,

      Young Poets Network

  2. I ✍very nice poems n shayari in hindi, ni really want to join young Poets
    Network, whenever there will b events of young Poets network please
    inform me , I really like to share my poems with oudience

  3. You helped me so much as a writer’s conference newbie with the same advice you just wrote. And when I was a college journalism major, our prof told us the same for newspaper writing. Thanks!

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