7 tips for performing Spoken Word Poetry at a funeral

For the first time, I got the opportunity to perform at a Funeral service. It wasn't those kinds of funerals that are followed up with celebrations and big Owambes, but a solemn one, with very few people (thanks to COVID19), and moody atmosphere, with people trying their best not to cry,

Throughout the process when service was engaged, to my rehearsal and eventual performance, I learnt how the process of performing at a funeral is different from regular events. So I thought to share what I gathered.

1. Honour the Dead

Unlike your previous performances, this one is not about you. Everyone, including you, is there for just one person... the departed

2. Ditch the Emotions

Inspite of the emotionally-charged atmosphere, remember that you are there as a Spoken Word Artist. Honour the dead with your art, and not your drama. The family did not pay you that "armed robber" money so you can join them weeping.

3. Forget the Applause

..You might not get one. No one will be laughing, smiling, marveling, or clicking their fingers to your sagacious punchlines. So if you are the type of artist who gets his/her energy from the audience, now is the time to find another source on energy - YOURSELF!

When I finished my performance, some people tried to clap lightly because it was an impressive performance. Honestly, it was weird... the sound of the unsure half claps.

4. Be Compassionate

When commissioned, show compassion in your speech. Let them know you understand their pain, and will do justice to it with your art. You can ask how the person departed, but not fishing for unnecessary gist, under the guise of "gathering content.'

5. Be flexible with your policies...

We all have policies, but if there's anytime to be a little flexible, this is it. For the first time, I sent the client a voice note of my performance before the event because she insisted. On a normal day, I don't share my materials, no matter how much you pay.

6. ...But not sentimental

Yes, someone died. But you are still going to do your job. Charge your fees as usual. You can give a discount if you want to, but must get paid. The client who decides to commission a Spoken word artist for a funeral understands the value you bring to the event. So don't undervalue yourself

7. ...While staying professional

We know there's grief, but send your invoice. Have policies politely communicated. Comport yourself at the event. Don't make unnecessary jokes to "lighten the mood" pre-event on during the event. Just do your job well... perform!

So there you have it. Have you ever offered a service for a funeral ceremony? How did you navigate the mood and manage the situation? Please, let's know in the comment section.


What's your opinion on this? Let's learn from one another.