Tips and Tricks from Hawai‘i’s Top Poets

Slam poets give advice on how to write and perform like spoken-word wizards.
Photo: Courtesy of Pacific Tongues/Outlier Imagery


Poetry has reinvented itself over the years to appeal to more than Frost fans and Dickinson diehards. Slam poetry has been blowing up across the country, with Hawai‘i right in the mix. For 10 years, Pacific Tongues Organization has provided youth across the Pacific with writing workshops and other outlets for students to share their voices. If you want to check out some youth poets in action, head to the Art at Marks Garage downtown this Saturday, July 11, at 3 p.m., where members of the 2015 Youth Speaks Hawai‘i team Sarah Daniels, Char Manning and Malia Derden will throw it down.


Can’t make it this weekend? Don’t worry—poets perform at Marks every Second Saturday. Pacific Tongues also holds writing workshops every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to help young poets develop their skills and share their work. Later this year, keep an eye out for the inaugural 2015 Pacific Tongues Interscholastic Team Teen Slam Poetry Festival, this Nov. 21–22 at MA‘O Organic Farms.


So how do you join the scene? Here are some tips from poetry pros on how to write from the heart and own the stage:


“My advice for anyone interested in starting poetry is to remember that there are no wrong answers. Your truth is your truth. Just be honest with your writing. Sometimes it can be a scary experience, but it can also be the most liberating. Trust the process.”

Jocelyn Ng, two-time Brave New Voices Champion, 2011 CUPSI “Best of the Rest,” member of the 2013 InkSlam Championship team and current poetry facilitator for the Pacific Tongues Organization


“Put whatever’s on your mind on paper: Writing things out can really clear the crazy thoughts that get jumbled together and help you understand yourself more. Constant forward motion: Just keep writing. Even if you feel stuck, don’t let your pen leave the paper. Write about whatever’s happening, be in the moment and write it out.”

Sarah Daniels, two-time member of the Youth Speaks Hawai‘i Slam Poetry team


“During my first performance, I was shaking like a leaf and I looked to the back of the room … When performing, try to connect with the audience. Instinct is to avoid progressive eyes, but you can make a better connection with people with eye contact. Don't force yourself to write on a certain topic. Write about it when you're able to, because that's when it needs to happen.”

Char Manning, current member of the Youth Speaks Hawai‘i Slam Poetry team


Find more info about the Pacific Tongues Organization at