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Encyclopedia > Poetry slam

A poetry slam is a competition at which poets read or recite original work (or, more rarely, that of others). These performances are then judged on a numeric scale by previously selected members of the audience. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (820x615, 79 KB)[edit] Summary The author of this photo is me, David Shankbone. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (820x615, 79 KB)[edit] Summary The author of this photo is me, David Shankbone. ... The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is a New York City performance venue, best known for slam poetry, but also presenting theater, stand-up comedy, Latin jazz, hip-hop performance, and screenplay readings, the café is a non-profit organization. ... New York, New York and NYC redirect here. ...



Marc Smith is credited with starting the poetry slam at the Get Me High Lounge in Chicago in November 1984. In July 1986, the slam moved to its permanent Chicago home, the Green Mill Jazz Club. In 1990, the first National Poetry Slam took place in Fort Mason, San Francisco, involving a team from Chicago, a team from San Francisco, and an individual poet from New York [1]. The National Poetry Slam has grown and currently features approximately 75 certified teams each year, culminating in five days of competition. National poetry slam results. Born on the southeast side of Chicago in 1950, Marc Kelly Smith is the founder of the Poetry Slam. ... Nickname: Motto: Urbs in Horto (Latin: City in a Garden), I Will Location in the Chicago metro area and Illinois Coordinates: , Country State Counties Cook, DuPage Settled 1770s Incorporated March 4, 1837 Government  - Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) Area  - City 234. ... This article is about the year. ... The most famous bar in Uptown if not all of Chicago, the Green Mill is one of famous gangster Al Capones former speakeasies from the Prohibition-era roaring 20s (check out his photo on the baby grand behind the bar); it was also a fav of Charlie Chaplin and... Year 1990 (MCMXC) was a common year starting on Monday (link displays the 1990 Gregorian calendar). ... The National Poetry Slam (NPS) is a performance poetry competition where teams from across the United States, Canada, and France participate in a large-scale poetry slam. ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... The National Poetry Slam (NPS) is a performance poetry competition where teams from across the United States, Canada, and France participate in a large-scale poetry slam. ... National Poetry Slam Results by Year [[TEAM FINALISTS]] 2007 1- Charlotte, Slam Charlotte 2- Killeen, TX 3- New York, Louder Arts 4- Denver, Sam Nuba 5- New York, Nuyorican 2006 1- Denver 2- Austin, Southflavas 3- New York, Louder Arts 4- DC-Baltimore 5- Miami 2005 1- Albuquerque 2- Charlotte...

Although American in origin, slams have spread all over the world, with slam scenes in Canada, Germany, Sweden, France, Austria, Nepal, the Netherlands, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Macedonia The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a country in western Europe, and member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the G8, the European Union, and NATO. Usually known simply as the United Kingdom, the UK, or (inaccurately) as Great Britain or Britain, the UK has four constituent... Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo) Coordinates: , Country Entity Canton Sarajevo Canton Government  - Mayor Semiha Borovac (SDA) Area [1]  - City 141. ... This article is about the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. ...


At a poetry slam, members of the audience are chosen by an emcee or host to act as judges for the event. After each poet performs, each judge awards a numeric score to that poem. Scores generally range between a low of zero and a high of ten. In the standardized slam, there will be five judges. The highest and lowest score are dropped, giving each performance a rating between zero and thirty points.

A single round at a slam consists of performances by all eligible poets. Most slams last multiple rounds, and many involve the elimination of lower-scoring poets in successive rounds. A standard elimination rubric might run 8-4-2, with eight poets in the first round, four in the second, and two in the last. Some slams do not eliminate poets at all.

Props, costumes, and music are generally forbidden in slams. Additionally, most slams enforce a time limit of three minutes (including a grace period of around ten seconds), after which a poet's score may be docked according to how long the poem exceeded the limit.

Competition types

In an "Open Slam," the most common slam type, competition is open to all who wish to compete. If there are more slammers than available time slots, competitors will often be chosen at random from the sign-up list.

In an "Invitational Slam," by contrast, only those invited to do so may compete.

A "Theme Slam" is one in which all performances must conform to a specified theme, genre, or formal constraint. Themes may include Goth, Erotica, Queer, Nerd, or other conceptual limitations. Theme slams sometimes allow performance of work by a poet other than the poet on stage; the "Dead Poet Slam" [1], in which all work must be by a deceased poet, is an example.

Formal constraints include such examples as the "1-2-3 Slam," which enforces time penalties and begins with a round of one-minute poems, followed by a round of two-minute poems, and concludes with a round of three-minute poems, with the number of poets in each subsequent round reduced by elimination. Each poet earns the right to do a longer poem by first proving that he or she can do a shorter one well. Other formal variations include the "Props Slam," which allows competing poets to use props and costumes. Alternately, some slams, such as the Manchester Creatures of the Night Slam in Britain, relax enforcement of the rules or assign a guest poet to act as judge for the event. There has also occured "Impro Slam" where the contestants get three minutes and 10 words that are supposed to be inserted into an improvised poem, the words are often displayed on a big screen so that the audience can follow the thoughts of the poet. "Dada Slam" is a bit rarer and makes the poetry slam into a performance competition, since you are not allowed to use accually words that anyone in the audience can understand, everything breaks down to what you do with your stage time and what emotions you can instill without using words. "Trubadur Slam" in Sweden is an example of Slam where you are also allowed to bring an instrument on stage. "Triathalon" is also a Swedish type of slam where you include a poet that is allowed to use a microphon, a musician that is allowed to use an instrument, and a dancer that is allowed to utilize the stage area, he/she is not allowed to make sound or noise.

Rather than restricting topic matter or style, some slams advocate participation by particular demographics. For example Latino, High School, or Women poets only may be allowed to participate in a particular slam.


Poetry slams feature a broad range of voices, styles, cultural traditions, and approaches to writing and performance. Some poets are closely associated with the vocal delivery style found in hip-hop music and draw heavily on the tradition of dub poetry, a rhythmic and politicized genre belonging to black and particularly West Indian culture. Others employ an unrhyming narrative formula. Some use traditional theatric devices including shifting voices and tones, while others may recite an entire poem in ironic monotone. Some poets use nothing but their words to deliver a poem, while others stretch the boundaries of the format, tap-dancing or beatboxing or using highly-choreographed movements. Hip-Hop music is a style of popular music. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

One of the goals of a poetry slam is to challenge the authority of anyone who claims absolute authority over literary value. No poet is beyond critique, as everyone is dependent upon the goodwill of the audience. Since only the poets with the best cumulative scores advance to the final round of the night, the structure assures that the audience gets to choose from whom they will hear more poetry. Audience members furthermore become part of each poem's presence, thus breaking down the barriers between poet/performer, critic, and audience. Bob Holman, a poetry activist and former slammaster of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, once called the movement "the democratization of verse." Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (2592x1944, 987 KB)[edit] Summary The autor of this image is me, David Shankbone. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (2592x1944, 987 KB)[edit] Summary The autor of this image is me, David Shankbone. ... Bob Holman Bob Holman is a poet and poetry activist in the United States. ... Bob Holman Bob Holman is a poet and poetry activist in the United States. ... The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is a New York City performance venue, best known for slam poetry, but also presenting theater, stand-up comedy, Latin jazz, hip-hop performance, and screenplay readings, the café is a non-profit organization. ...

Responses to Slam

Slam has not been without its critics. Populist responses to slam have included the International SpokenWord and Poetry Tournament, created by the Hip Hop Feminist Nation, and the Anti-Slam, begun at Collective:Unconscious on New York's Lower East Side. The ISPT emphasizes positive messages by all participants. At an Anti-Slam, all forms of expression are given a six-minute set and all participants are given a perfect ten by the judges. Lower East Side impresario/artist Rev. ...

Academia has also responded to slam in various and contradictory ways. In an interview published in a recent Paris Review, literary critic Harold Bloom called the movement "the death of art." In response, poet and critic Victor D. Infante wrote in OC Weekly, "[The death of art] is a big onus to place on anybody, but Bloom has always had a propensity for (reactionary) generalizations and burying his bigotries beneath 'aesthetics,' insisting — as he did in his prologue to the anthology Best of the Best of American Poetry — that the 'art' of poetry is being debased by politics." The Paris Review, which is actually based in New York, is a literary magazine started in 1953 by Peter Matthiessen, Thomas H. Guinzburg, and Harold L. Humes, and edited until his death in 2003 by George Plimpton. ... Harold Bloom (born July 11, 1930) is an American professor and prominent literary and cultural critic. ... Victor D. Infante (born 1972 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an American poet and critic. ... OC Weekly is a weekly paper circulated in Orange County. ...

Despite the highly-visible animosity between certain members of both groups, a number of poets belong to academia and slam: Jeffrey McDaniel started as a slammer but has published in such mainstream poetry journals as Ploughshares and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College; Sam Pierstorff created the ILL LIST Poetry Slam Invitational, is the Poet Laureate of Modesto, CA, and has published poems in various conventional journals; Craig Arnold won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition and has nonetheless competed at slams. A less successful attempt at crossover was that of Henry Taylor, winner of the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, who competed in the 1997 National Poetry Slam as an individual and placed 75th out of 150. Poets such as Michael Salinger, Felice Bell, Javon Johnson, Susan B. Anthony Somers-Willett, Robbie Q. Telfer, Phil West, Karyna McGlynn and Scott Dillard have devoted much attention to the merger in their respective scholarly works. Jeffrey McDaniel (born 1967 in Philadelphia) is a slam poet who has performed in diverse locations such as Lollapalooza 1994, the National Poetry Slam, the Globe in Prague and the Moscow Writers Union. ... Craig Arnold (born November 16, 1967) is an American poet. ... The Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition is an annual event of Yale University Press aiming to publish the first collection of a promising American poet. ... Sir Henry Taylor (October 18, 1800 - March 27, 1886) was an English dramatist. ... This article is about the year. ... The Pulitzer Prize in Poetry has been presented since 1922 for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author. ... For the band, see 1997 (band). ... Bio Michael Salinger is a poet/performer and educator living in Northeast Ohio. ... A nationally successful slam poetry writer and performer, he has been a featured performer at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York and The Green Mill in Chicago. ... Karyna McGlynn (born 1977 in Austin, Texas) is an American poet. ...

Slam poetry has found popularity as a form of self-expression among many teenagers. Youth Speaks, a non-profit literary organization founded in 1996 by James Kass, serves as one of the largest youth poetry organizations in America, offering opportunities for youth ages 13-19 to express their ideas on paper and stage. Another group offering opportunites in education and performance to teens is URBAN WORD NYC out of New York City, formerly known as Youth Speaks New York. URBAN WORD NYC holds the largest youth slam in NYC annually, with over 500 young people. The non-profit organization provides free workshops for inner-city youth ran by Hip-Hop poet and mentor, Michael Cirelli. Young Chicago Authors (YCA) provides workshops, mentoring, and competition opportunities to youth in the Chicago area. Every year YCA presents Louder Than A Bomb, the world's largest team-based youth slam and subject of a forthcoming documentary by the same name.


  • Algarin & Holman, ALOUD: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe
  • Beau Sia, A Night Without Armor II: The Revenge
  • Daphne Gottlieb, Final Girl, Pelt, and Why Things Burn
  • Gary Glazner, Poetry Slam
  • Jeffrey McDaniel, Alibi School, The Forgiveness Parade, and The Splinter Factory
  • Justin Chin, Bite Hard
  • Michael Salinger, Neon and Outspoken
  • Patricia Smith, Big Towns, Big Talk : Poems, Close to Death : Poems, and Life According to Motown
  • Ragan Fox, Heterophobia
  • Regie Gibson, Storms Beneath the Skin
  • Big Poppa E, The Wussy Boy Manifesto
  • Emanuel Xavier, Americano, and Bullets & Butterflies: queer spoken word poetry

See also

Big Poppa E is the stage name of slam poetry performer Eirik Ott. ... Emanuel Xavier Granja (born May 3, 1971), known as Emanuel Xavier, is an openly gay American poet, spoken word artist, author[1], editor, events producer and actor born and raised in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. ... Spoken word is a form of music or artistic performance in which lyrics, poetry, or stories are spoken rather than sung. ... Performance poetry is poetry that is specifically composed for or during performance before an audience. ... The following is a (very) partial list of performance poets. ...


  1. ^ PSI FAQ: National Poetry Slam.

External links

  Results from FactBites:
The Academy of American Poets - A Brief Guide to Slam Poetry (317 words)
Poetry began as part of an oral tradition, and movements like the Beats and the poets of Negritude were devoted to the spoken and performed aspects of their poems.
This interest was reborn through the rise of poetry slams across America; while many poets in academia found fault with the movement, slam was well received among young poets and poets of diverse backgrounds as a democratizing force.
A slam itself is simply a poetry competition in which poets perform original work alone or in teams before an audience, which serves as judge.
  More results at FactBites »



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