A Comparison between Performance and Epic Poem

Poetry is and has always been a broad topic in the history of the arts. Various authors have made several attempts to describe poetry. Also with the advancement of literature, there is no universally accepted concept of poetry.
Thus, poetry is the general art of using human language aesthetically to express a wealth of knowledge in a lyrical fashion rather than its theoretical substance. It is used in oral and written works where the users and viewers deviate from standard prose. Poetry was once the domain of early agriculturalists, who are said to have recited it to magically increase crop numbers. Apparently, the poems have retired from their initially intended purpose. Today, poetry is formally recognized. It appears in every curriculum. Further, there exists a myriad of poems in the current literature. The poems have been split into different categories depending on the tone used, meter, pacing, and other distinct characteristics.

Epic and performance poems

The epic poem is a subgenre of narrative poetry. It is a long narrative arranged in verse form of verses. It retells the journey of a hero, either in a group or singly. The poem supernaturally describes the human. The adventures, in case that are fabulous. The language style used is high. It makes use of lyrical and traditional drama (Peretz, 20).

Performance poetry, on the other hand, is a type of oral narrative that transforms the readings from poetry into theatrical events; it makes use of the stage as the page. Although the recent renaissance of performance poem is viewed as a reaction against the mainstream, the style brings us back to the classical role of poetry (Wade, 21).

Difference and similarities between Epic and performance poems


The composition of epic poems is said to have been fundamentally oral. Epics highlighted the cultural norms to call into question the specific values in a given society. They begin with narrator’s statement for the general theme where the narrator then invites a divine entity to assist him in delivering the poem in a manner of a story. They have an “in medias res” meaning which translates to “in the midst of things” during the opening. This implies that the poem opens in the middle of the story, and not the beginning. It includes the use of epithets and a long list called epic catalog (Clifford, 63).

The composition of performance poems requires that one uses words and phrases that project into the minds of the audience. While composing this type of poetry, choose a subject with an attitude. Tune in feelings into the art as this enhances its richness. It is necessary that the poetry the courage necessary to oneself to the audience. The poetic devices should be picked up ready enough to be incorporated into the poem.

The difference between these two types regarding composition is that while epic poem may exist in the print media, performance poem ought to be memorized. Memorization aids in making the performer get in touch with the emotional content. If you happen to forget a line in performance poem, you can improvise unlike in epic. While epic poems utilized standardized structures in composition, contemporary performance poems differ in structure and size with great emphasis on rhythm. Epic poems employ a vast setting through a wide geographic area while performance poem focusses mostly on a given audience within a narrow setting. Performance poetry covers controversial topics like injustice and politics, unlike epic poetry which capitalizes on the central theme of hero elevation.

Similarities lie where both of them are meant to trigger particular emotions into the mind of the audience.


Pacing is a tool used in literature to control the speed in which a story is told. It is a technique that is used to pull readers through the events. It refers to how fast or slows the events unravel. A far-reaching epic, unlike a performance poem, will be told at a leisurely pace. Epics use cliff changers to catch the attention of the reader. Pacing in performance poem is almost uniform unlike in the case of epics. There are no scene cuts in performance poem unlike in the case of the epic where it is used to accelerate the story (Riccio & Siegel, 95).


Epic poems make use of diction with an elevated style. The tone is objective and dignified. The tone formality may change, but in most case, the narrator seems laudatory. It is predominantly formal and serious tone. The poem illustrates timeless values like honor and courage meant to praise the demigod, which can only be presented formally. Conversely, the tone used in the performance poems is spoken out loud. It is dependent on the general theme and the audience, but the vocals are maintained. The tone is accompanied by actions that emphasize on the words being spoken. Tones in epic cannot easily be grasped unless one analyzes the language used carefully. Since the performance poem is accompanied by some beats at times, it is easy to decipher the tone whereby the fast beats are meant to convey a joyous, lively tone. Like in the case of epic, the tone is all through engaging.


Performance poem, as the word suggests is geared towards being presented to the audience through active performance. Here, you can hear the poet’s voice. This is contrary to the epic poem whereby you don’t listen to the voice of the poem. Performance poems require one to develop engaging presentation skills. The use of eye contact is essential critical during the performance. Voice projection is also vital since the audience may be found some distance away. Enunciation is also helpful for the listeners to hear what the performer is precisely saying. In the epic poem, the poet does not have to project the voice or show any facial expression since the message is on the books. This is exceptional to the classical poet sojourners.

Although most poets memorize their work before performing it, at times direct reading is acceptable. This happens mostly to the nervous presenters. As a result, it brings a similarity with the epic type. In both cases, it is essential to pay attention to the words to derive meaning and decipher the tone.

Poetic devices

The use of imagery in poetry cannot be overemphasized. It makes it possible to for the audience to view through the mind the characters and the events as they unfold. In epic poetry, imagery is a rich resource. Metaphors and exaggeration allow the reader to view the exact image that the narrator intends the reader to see. The metaphor makes a particular figure of speech to convey a different message from its ordinary meaning. Metaphor in the epic is used to demonstrate how powerful the hero is. Hyperbole does the exaggeration in epics. While epic poems comprehensively make use of the imagery, the performance type does not put a lot of emphasis on it. Performance poems are much more experimental. They thus do not strictly adhere to the rule of structure and figures like rhyming and alliteration (Baldwin, 74). However, the use of these rhyme and repetition helps to enrich the poem’s diction as well as performance as the audience can almost predict. Although the performance type tends to evade these devices with time slightly, both can be traced as a common feature in the poem.

Growth of the art

Another difference exists between epic and performance regarding flexibility. While the epic poetry strictly adheres to the poetic devices without a slight change in structure, the performance poets are improvising it with each new dawn. Technology has had a significant impact on the performance. With the advent of technology, it is possible to convey the message through social media. Attempts to incorporate epic poems into technology only end them into losing the meaning. The growth of performance poetry can be attributed to the matching increase in the slam. The movement is dedicated to creating a discourse between audience and the performer. The term “spoken word” is a birth from the modern performance poem.

The takeaway

Overall, it is apparent that the field of poetry is broad, and continues to broaden with each new day. The difference between epic and performance poems is an indication of how the art is growing. Despite the clear differences highlighted above, similarities also exist. The similarities are meant to conglomerate the arm of poetry, irrespective of the differences.

Works cited

Baldwin, S. P. (2011). CliffsNotes on Homer’s Odyssey. In S. P. Baldwin, CliffsNotes on Homer’s Odyssey (pp. 70-75). Harcourt: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Clifford, T. (2013). The middle school writing toolkit. In T. Clifford, differentiated instruction across the content areas (pp. 55-65). Gainesville, FL: Maupin House,

Peretz, E. (2013). In E. Peretz, Dramatic experiments: life according to Diderot (pp. 18-22). New York: Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.

Riccio, O. M., & Siegel, E. B. (2009). Unlocking the poem. In O. M. Riccio, & E. B. Siegel, Unlocking the poem (p. 95). New York: iUniverse.

Wade, S. (2011). A straightforward guide to writing performance poetry. In S. Wade, A straightforward guide to writing performance poetry (pp. 10-22). Brighton: Straightforward.

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