Poetry at symposia had two faces: professional entertainment and symposiast participation. Professional bards would be hired to perform epic poems or other forms of poetry--in fact, symposium culture ended up creating its own specific genres of poetry, including sympotic odes and elegies (Vetta 1999; 102). Due to their elevation in status from being sought after symposium performers, bards ended up becoming fixtures at court, though over time poetry and song were switched out for theater performances at symposia (Vetta 1999; 104).
A poetry game would take place when the host passed around a myrtle branch or wreath and guests would take turns creating their own poetry (Ford 2002; 32). It was considered a highly regarded skill to be able to improvise poetry well, and often happened as inspiration struck, not just due to the myrtle wreath game (Vetta 1999; 102-104). Symposiasts also brought pre-written poetry, and reciting it around the krater was simultaneously performance and invitation of hospitality in the future (Vetta 1999; 98-99).