Twelve Literary Arts 

Because poetry is for the people ...

 

Poetry Slam FAQ

Five  frequently asked questions and answers about Poetry Slam

Q1: What is poetry slam?

Simply put, poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. It puts a dual emphasis on writing and performance, encouraging poets to focus on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. In competition, the poets are judged by members of the audience. Typically, the host or another organizer selects the judges, who are instructed to give numerical scores (on a zero to 10 or one to 10 scale) based on the poets’ content and performance.


Q2: Who gets to participate in Poetry Slam?

The vast majority of slam series registered by Poetry Slam, Inc. are open to everyone who wishes to sign up and can get into the venue. Though everyone who signs up has the opportunity to read in the first round, the lineup for subsequent rounds is determined by the judges’ scores. In other words, the judges vote for which poets they want to see more work from.


Q3: What are the rules?

Though rules vary from slam to slam, the basic rules are:

  • Each poem must be of the poet’s own construction;
  • Each poet gets three minutes (plus a ten-second grace period) to read one poem. If the poet goes over time, points will be deducted from the total score.
  • The poet may not use props, costumes or musical instruments;
  • Of the scores the poet received from the five judges, the high and low scores are dropped and the middle three are added together, giving the poet a total score of 0-30.

Q4: What is the difference between slam poetry and poetry? 
That’s not the right question to ask. There is no such thing as “slam poetry” even though the term “slam poet” seems to have gained acceptance. Those who use the term “slam poetry” are probably thinking more of loud, in-your-face, vaguely poetic rants. The more useful question to ask is “What is the difference between spoken word and poetry?” Spoken word is poetry written first and foremost to be heard. At any given slam, much of the work presented could be called spoken word.

Q5: How do I win a poetry slam?

Winning a poetry slam requires some measure of skill and a huge dose of luck. The judges’ tastes, the audience’s reactions, and the poets’ performances all shape a slam event, and what wins one week might not get a poet into the second round the next week. There’s no formula for winning a slam, although you become a better poet and performer the same way you get to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice.