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Poetry Guide: Poetry Reading

A poetry reading is a performance of poetry, normally given on a small stage in a cafe or bookstore, although poetry readings given by notable poets frequently are booked into larger venues (amphitheaters, college auditoriums, etc.) to accommodate crowds. Unless otherwise indicated in advance, poetry readings almost always involve poets reading their own work or reciting it from memory -- the recitation of a work by another poet is normally the act of a well-known poet who chooses to read a few poems by forgotten poets or old friends that the poet feels should be more widely known. Poetry readings normally involve several readers (often called "featured poets" or "featureds"), although normally one poet is chosen as a "headliner".

Poetry readings are often paired with open mikes -- many open mikes restrict themselves exclusively to poetry, and most welcome it. Sometimes the two events are fused -- a successful open mike will invite a local poet to "feature" in the middle of its normal event, or to be the final performer of the evening.

Poetry readings have diminished in popularity (along with poetry) in recent decades -- they have become less and less a part of the mainstream pop culture, and more and more identified with an artistic fringe. They have remained most popular in large cities and college towns, where the population of artists and poets is larger and more self-sustaining. Not all readings have gone this way, however; for instance, slam poetry is poetry that has adopted to a hip-hop sensibility, and slam poetry contests have enjoyed rising popularity in recent years, especially in the United States.

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