Poetry Facts

The Power of Poetry in Speeches

Last Updated: October 22, 2022

As a poetry lover, I’m sure you understand how influential poetry can be. Throughout history, many great leaders, activists, politicians have brought poetry into their speeches, crafting powerful messages that can (and did) change the world.

In today’s article, we’re going to look at poetry in speeches, why you should use poetry in your next speech, how to go about doing so, and of course, the famous poetic speeches across eras. Let’s dive in!

Why Use Poetry in a Public Speech

Poetry is powerful. That’s why there are many benefits to using poetry in a public speech. What benefits, you ask?

Well, for starter, a poem can really serve as a highlight of a speech, breaking the usual monotony. It adds a fresher element to the speech, and helps to capture the audience’s attention better.

Poetry can also be a very good reference point in your speech. By adding a familiar poem to the audience, the speaker can help the audience understand the subject that he or she is trying to convey better.

A good poem can really add an additional depth to your speech, if you know how to use it right. The audience can’t help but feel a strong influence, and the speaker has a much better chance of leaving an impact.

I think all of us can agree that poetry has an air of literary elegance to it. By adding poetry to your speech, you also bring that elegance and a lot of class into your presentation.

Finally, sometimes, poetry can say a lot more with less. Adding a poem at the right moment of the talk can help you being more concise and establish a deep connection with the audience.

So I hope by now I’ve convinced you that it’s a good idea to try adding poetry into your speech. In the next section, we’re going to talk about how to do it.

How to Use Poetry in A Public Speech

It’s pretty clear that poetry can enhance a speech greatly if done right. But it can be tricky if you’re not a poet nor a student of poetry yourself. Here are something to keep in mind if you want to use poetry in your next speech:

1. Choose the right poem

This should go without saying, but if you’re going to use poetry in your speech, make sure that the poem you choose fit within the context of what you’re trying to say. A poem should help you get your point across and make an impression on the audience, not making them confused or worse, zone out. So do your homework.

2. Have a plan

Most people don’t read poetry on a daily basis. This means that you can’t just bring a poem out of nowhere into your speech. You need to provide some introduction to the poem, why do you chose the poem, what’s the background story, etc. Prepare the audience so that they can listen to the poem from the best position possible.

3. Speak like a poet

Ever seen a spoken-word poet perform on stage? If you haven’t, then you should do it because you will learn a lot from them. Writing poetry is an art, but not many people think the same about delivering a poem to an audience that way. You’ll need to learn how to project from the diaphragm, posturing, pacing, etc. Watch a poet perform and try to practice your delivery as best as you can.

4. Don’t think too much

The last tip is kind of counter intuitive, but after all the preparing and practicing, you should not think when you go and perform. Thinking is great when you’re trying to practice, but once on stage, it will likely hinder your performance. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. After all, that’s how you get better.

5 Famous Poetic Speeches in History

1. I have a dream by Martin Luther King Jr.

This is probably one of the most inspiring speeches of all time. Delivered on the 28th of August, 1963 by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., “I have a dream” was a defining speech of the civil rights movement.

In the speech, King used anaphora, a poetic device in which the author repeats an expression at the beginning of a number of sentences. With a single phrase “I have a dream,” Martin Luther King Jr. joined ranks with the men who shaped modern America.

2. We shall fight on the beaches by Winston Churchill

“We shall fight on the beaches” is one of the three major speeches by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This speech was delivered to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on the 4th of June, 1940, warning about a possible invasion attempt by Nazi Germany.

Churchill is known for spending hours working on every minute of his speech. He wrote every word, and carefully crafting them so that the final draft “looks like a draft of a poem,” according to many critics.

3. Ain’t I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was a well known anti-slavery speaker and one of the most revolutionary advocates for women’s human rights in the 1800s. The speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” was delivered at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio, addressing the discrimination of woman and African Americans in the post-Civil War era.

It is a poetic speech that many people have adapted it into a poem itself. Here’s the speech, delivered by Nkechi at a TEDx event in 2013.

4. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

This one is a legit poem as a speech. “Still I Rise” is a poem written by Maya Angelou, an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She is well-known for uplifting fellow African American women through her work.

“Still I Rise” is one of Angelou’s most popular poems, inspiring black women everywhere to keep good faith and striving for equality and peace.

Final thoughts

By now, I’m sure we all can understand how much weight that poetry, or even just a poetic device, can bring into a speech. I hope that you’ve learned something new and useful, maybe even some inspirations to incorporate poetry into the next chance you have to deliver a public speech.

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