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Mahogany L. Browne reading at the Brooklyn Museum, 2021. (Photo: Kolin Mendez)

“Perform Everywhere,” and Other Advice for Emerging Slam Poets

Mahogany L. Browne, cofounder of the Brooklyn Poetry Slam, shares a few words of advice for newcomers to slam poetry.

This is the tenth year that slam poets have gathered at the Brooklyn Museum to share their writing at the Brooklyn Poetry Slam, cofounded by Mahogany L. Browne and DJ Jive Poetic. A uniquely participatory and open format, slam poetry events involve poets reading their work in successive rounds, with judges from the audience scoring their work to narrow down the competition. The poet with the highest cumulative score is the winner. Anyone can participate, and anyone can be a judge. 

Browne, who is cohosting the next Brooklyn Poetry Slam on February 29, shares her advice for emerging slam poets below. Register to attend the slam, and arrive early if you’d like to read your work.


What’s the best (or a very good) piece of advice you’ve received about performing poetry?

Perform everywhere. The more spaces you share your work and voice, the broader your reach goes.

“If you are curious about performing, study everyone.”

Are there any resources that you might recommend to people who are hoping to explore slam poetry? 

Look into open mic spaces in each borough, writing fellowships both online and regionally, [and meetings] in tea shops, bookstores, and libraries. 

How did you grow your own practice and confidence?

This is still something I am having a time with. I believe in my poems and my message, so that helps. But I’m nervous every time I touch [the] stage. I think what puts it all into perspective is the mantra, “If I don’t tell my story, who will?” And as a Black woman in a country built on the bones of erasure, it is always at the front of my mind’s eye, the severity of my silence. After that realization, the fear takes a back seat and I kind of black out on stage! 

I rarely remember what has happened until days later and even then, I have to ask folks what happened, or I refer to the photographs to witness folks meditating with me, or [I watch] the footage from the performance and [realize] I was so in the moment of sharing the poem, I didn’t even compute the standing ovation. Needless to say, it’s humbling and magical, all in one!

Are there any words of advice you would give someone who’s curious about performing?

If you are curious about performing, study everyone. You can study a comedian for their timing, an actor for their ability to sink into the character’s voice, a poet for their ability to move mountains with just their voice, and dancers who move like a poem too. 

Leave no rock unturned. Study the greats. And then study everyone else. You need to know what you like and you should be aware of what doesn’t move you, so you can make sure you don’t subconsciously subscribe to it when you least expect it! 


Corinne Segal is Senior Digital Producer at the Brooklyn Museum.