What is a poetry slam?

Simply put, poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. Established in the mid-80s as a means to heighten public interest in poetry readings, slam has evolved into an international art form emphasizing audience involvement and poetic excellence.

In the majority of slam series, organizers stage weekly or monthly events in a bar or coffeehouse. Poets wishing to compete sign up with a host, and the host finds five audience members who wish to serve as judges. Poets must follow a series of rules: the poems must be the poet’s original work, the poet may not use props, costumes, or musical instruments, and if the poet goes over the time limit (three minutes plus a 10-second grace period), points are deducted from his or her score. Judges, who are encouraged to factor both writing and performance into their evaluations, judge each poet on a 0.0 to 10.0 scale. The high score and low score are dropped, and the middle three scores become the score for that particular poet. To insure that the entire audience is involved, the host encourages the audience to respond to the poet in any way they see fit, be it impassioned cheering or lusty booing. The judges, in turn, are encouraged to remain consistent with themselves and not let the audience influence them.

In a typical competition, all poets read one poem in the first round. The top-scoring poets go on to the second round, and from that pool, a smaller number of the highest-scoring poets in the second round go on to the third and final round. While the specifics vary from slam to slam, certified slams adhere to this basic structure, insuring that poets must seek to make immediate connections with the audience in order to soldier on. Cash prizes or other prizes are offered to the winner as further impetus for performing well. In most cities, the slam series culminates with a final slam at the end of the season to determine which poets will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam.

What is an official qualifying slam?

The official slam of the Albuquerque Poetry Slam is Poetry & Beer at Tractor Brewing Co. Wells Park. That’s where you compete for points to qualify for the Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team & Championships. There are also¬† special event slams in the upcoming year. Check the homepage for details about upcoming events.

How can I get involved in my local community?

Attend poetry readings, slams, and fundraisers. New voices are always welcome, the poets are a little smelly but won’t bite, and we would love to get to know you! If we see you two or three times, you won’t be able to get rid of us!

How do I get on the Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team?

Albuquerque Poetry Slam has a simple formula for qualifying to get on the slam team. For an in-depth explanation, read the Qualifiers page. Or, in short, go to any and all poetry slams and win as often as possible.

Do I have to have my poems memorized in order to slam?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to have your poetry memorized in order to compete in a slam. However, many slammers say that having your poems memorized helps you relate the poem to the audience more effectively than if you’re reading off the page.

Can I get local information e-mailed to me?

No emails. But you can check out ABQ Slams on Facebook.

Who invented poetry slam?

In 1985 a construction worker and poet named Marc Smith started a poetry reading series at a Chicago jazz club, the Get Me High Lounge, looking for a way to breathe life into the open mike poetry format. The series’ emphasis on performance lays the groundwork for the poetry which would eventually be exhibited in slam. In 1986 Smith approached Dave Jemilo, the owner of the Green Mill (a Chicago jazz club and former haunt of Al Capone), with a plan to host a weekly poetry competition on the club’s slow Sunday nights. Jemilo welcomed him, and on July 25, the Uptown Poetry Slam was born. Smith drew on baseball and bridge terminology for the name, and instituted the basic features of the competition, including judges chosen from the audience and cash prizes for the winners. The Green Mill evolved into a Mecca for performance poets, and the Uptown Poetry Slam still continues nearly 15 years after its inception.

What is the National Poetry Slam (NPS)?

The National Poetry Slam is the annual Slam Championship tournament, wherein four-person teams from all over North America and Europe gather to compete against each other for the national title. It has become part Super Bowl, part poetry summer camp, and part traveling exhibition. Staged in a different city each year, the National Poetry Slam has emerged as slam’s highest-profile showcase.