So I’ve been making a pretty good living out of performance poetry for the last two months now…
although it has taken a long time and the collection of a few different skill sets for it to have culminated like this. I discovered a passion for poetry combining my musical, choreographical and spiritual skills, but would not have the cajones to busk it in the street if I hadn’t done street charity fundraising.
This was where I learned to cope with rejection, which you get a lot of when wearing a charity jacket bearing an iPad. However, I was entraining myself to expand the concept into my own work; presenting myself well and pricing my poetry in a menu. All I do is wander the streets of a city or festival and ask if people would like a poem. I then present them with my menu, explaining the deals with books I can do and invite them to choose. At the moment I have a donation bracket – £3, £5, £10 specials (which come with a free book and a month long subscription to my website) and a £15 special. I can email the client a copy of the script and also sign them up to my ‘Pound a Poem’ service.
I would love to see other poets doing this,
but etiquette is key so we can maintain a good relationship with the public.
Here are some tips:
- As soon as someone says no to you, don’t harass them. You can appear intimidating to other passers by.
- If you dress loudly (which I do) be mindful of homeless in the streets and other buskers. I give to other buskers often to encourage the public to give, but I’m aware that I suck up all the attention in the street.
- Do your poems for free for people who are in service (e.g. stewards at festivals, police officers, etc.)
- Sounds obvious but regular sips of water are essential. I’m out between 6-12 hours a day and work to when my voice dictates.
- Be mindful of the loudness of your environment. I wouldn’t start a poem if next to roadworks for instance.
- I often get people say they have no cash on them. This is the main reason I have a donation bracket so I can perform some for free (it is still good marketing for you and you can always point them to your website). The next person might give you a tenner.
- Record your work and have it available for people to listen to online, I use BandCamp (click to go to Rich’s BandCamp) so that my members can download them too.
- Where possible allow your client to film your performance: they can tag you and share the video.
- Possibly the most important advice I could give you would be to do street charity or door-to-door fundraising. If you can convince someone to sign up to a charity you should have no problem stopping them for poetry! Write your pitches into poems according to their briefs and you should have no problem.
So that’s about it from me. You can find my work, buy my books, and sign up to my online anthology ‘Richer and Richer‘ on www.richbutfamous.net (because I couldn’t get .not… geddit?), YouTube, BandCamp and on Facebook.