Get Your Premium Membership

Poetry Slam

Slam Poetry or Poetry Slam is a type of poetry that incorporates writing, performance, and audience response skills. While it is not a traditional "form of poetry" it is an umbrella category for any form of a poem (Couplet, Rhyme, Free Verse, Alliteration, etc) meant to be performed for a live audience in a competitive environment.

This poetry is performed ‘on stage’ at events known as Poetry Slams. The name ‘slam’ symbolizes the power of the audience to praise or destroy a poem, depending on the energy performance of the poet. These slams can be held at any venue, such as bars, bookstores, parks, and coffeehouses.

Poetry Slam

Due to the performance aspect of this poem, it mainly centers on emotional topics, for instance, bullying, politics, and other current social events. It can feature a broad range of voices, styles, cultural traditions, and approaches to writing and performance.

During large events, the judges are randomly picked from the audience and rate the poem based on the emotional effect it is creating. The poet can write about any topic, but one that will have a significant psychological impact. Guidelines for writing this poetry differ among different events. Nevertheless, there are some standard rules that poets have to adhere to:

  1. The poem must be an original creation by the writer. You cannot go to recite another poet’s work.
  2. The poet should pay attention to time; it should be a three-minute write.
  3. The poem should be relatable and straightforward. It should spark emotions in the audience when recited.
  4. You should perform with enthusiasm and rhythm.
  5. The poet should practice power poetry as no props, or musical instruments are allowed during the performance. Nevertheless, the poet can incorporate humming, singing, clapping, or make other sounds using other body parts.

Origin and History

The idea of slam poetry was started by Marc Kelly Smith, a construction worker, and local poet, in Chicago, Illinois during the 80s. Marc felt that people had lost their real value of poetry and aimed to bring it back to the people. Poet Marc went ahead to start a weekly poetry slam event, where everyone was welcome to participate. Five judges were responsible for rating the performers out of a scale of 0-10. To find an overall high score, the judges would eliminate the lowest and highest score and add the remaining (3).

Today, many consider poetry an art, well known as spoken word. This art inspired the start of poetry slams across Canada, the US, Japan, and some parts of Europe. Besides, it has also had significant influence in various aspects such as literature, culture, politics, arts, media, and entertainment. The annual National Poetry Slam competition is held in different cities across America and lasts for about five days. Slam poetry has become a significant poetry form and easily accessible today.

Famous Examples

I'm sorry that I'm using "I'm sorry" as a crutch to lean on for so long, but if you sing me that song of sweet logic again then I promise to make an effort - Shane Koyzan

My Love is my soul’s imagination...How do I love you? Imagine.- Saul Williams

Famous Slam Poets

Over the years, there have been some great slam poets across the globe. Some of these top writers include:

Saul Williams

Many refer to Saul Williams as the grandfather of the spoken word. Williams started as an undefined artist in a 1988 drama film known as SLAM. Williams goes through this script as Joshua, and passes a road of strong emotions and feelings, with the viewers behind him. He fills the screen with monologues and diatribes.

Sunni Patterson

Sunni hails from New Orleans 9th ward. Def Poetry Jam also features her. Patterson uses her slam poetry skills to encourage self-improvement, awakening, and embracing ourselves.

Mos Def

Mos Def is a renowned star and founder of the hip hop group, Black Star. Besides, he is a master in spoken word lyrics. Although he is yet to compete in a poetry slam, he has made a name for himself in this form.

Other famous slam poets include Nikki Giovani, Taylor Mali, Big Poppa E, Mayda del Valle, Georgia Me, to name a few.

Slam Competitions

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. The event occurs in early August every year and takes place in a different US city.


In conclusion, slam poetry has enrooted in culture, politics, and other social-cultural components. If you are interested in slam poetry, this article should help you understand it better.

[n] an aggressive remark directed at a person like a missile and intended to have a telling effect; "his parting shot was `drop dead'"; "she threw shafts of sarcasm"; "she takes a dig at me every chance she gets"
[n] winning all or all but one of the tricks in bridge
[v] strike violently
[v] throw violently; "He slammed the book on the table"
[v] close violently; "He slammed the door shut"
[v] dance the slam dance

Related Information

More Poetry Slam Links

  • See poems containing the word: Slam.
  • See quotes containing the word: Poetry Slam.
  • How many syllables are in Slam.
  • What rhymes with Slam?