Here's a defintion of Peformance Poetry from Apples and Snakes (from the notes I brought back from Manila!):
Performance poetry is poetry that has been written specifically to be declaimed in public, as opposed to poetry that really belongs on a page and is simply being read out. The difference is a subtle one: performance poetry may rely more heavily on rhyme, insistent rhythm or a narrative thread. And the poet, too, will be aware that he or she has an audience and will make some concessions to them. For some poets, this means leaping about; for others, a little eye-contact can suffice. Performance poetry, indeed, comes in many forms: some have thoughts to share, whilst others simple want to share their verbal dexterity, or simply entertain. You could argue too that theya re perpetuating the oral tradition which is fundamental to so many cultures.You can get a very good idea of what performance poetry is all about, and the sheer diversity that the term encompasses, by looking at the Apples and Snake's events schedule for the year. Take a look too at the kinds of educational projects the organisation supports. Apples and Snakes has also worked with young offenders with some pretty amazing results.
Performance poetry is important because it makes poetry accessible to people who would otherwise avoid it ... . In that sense, it perhaps makes literature itself more accessible. That's why it can be a useful educational tool. A good performance- poetry show provides a night out that can be thought-provoking, surprising or just fun. It can inspire people ... to start writing and performing themselves. And in a world where most communication is e-communication, it's nice to see (and hear) the human voice taking centre-stage again.
Of course, the best way to find out what it's is all about will be to catch Francesca Beard's performance when she comes to KL (next month, I believe).