Poetry Slams

Occasionally, we host POETRY SLAMS!


What is poetry slam?

A poetry slam is an event in which poets perform their work and are scored by judges selected from the audience. Poetry slam is competitive performance poetry that emphasizes both a poet's writing and performance (reading or memorization). Anyone interested in slamming should come early to sign up, and bring 3 original poems!

Who can participate?

VLP poetry slams are open to anyone. Everyone who signs up to slam gets to read in Round 1, then judges' scores determine who goes to Round 2.

What are the rules?

  • The piece presented must have been written by the person performing it;
  • Each poet gets three minutes, plus a 10-second grace period, to read one poem; if the poet goes over, points
  • will be deducted from the total score—half a point deduction from total score for every 10 seconds beyond
  • the grace period (for example, go three minutes and eleven seconds and lose half a point);
  • The poet may not use props, costumes, or musical instruments (except costumes on Halloween);
  • Of the scores the poet receives from the 5 judges, the high and low scores are dropped, and the middle 3 are
  • added together, giving the poet a total score of 0-30;
  • A "Sacrificial Poet" starts the slam; judges score this performance, which doesn't count as part of the official competition—their scores for the sacrificial poet serve as a reference for the official slammers.

How does a poetry slam differ from an open-mic reading?

Open-mic readings tend to be a supportive, non-competitive environment for poets. Slam is designed for audience participation—the audience is encouraged to react vocally and openly to all aspects of the show, including the poet’ s performance, the judges’ scores, and the MC’ s banter.

What can the audience do?

We encourage audience members to respond to the poets or the judges in any way they see fit—boo the judges’ scores, cheer for great poems, applaud, whistle. Of course we ask for respectful listening so the poets can be heard, but we love when audience members expresses themselves!

What kind of poetry is read at VLP slams?

One of the best things about poetry slam is the range of poets it attracts. You'll find a diverse range of work within slam, including heartfelt love poetry, searing social commentary, uproarious comic routines, and bittersweetnpersonal confessional pieces. Poets are free to do work in any style on any subject.

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 at one slam might not get into Round 2 the next time. There’ s no formula for winning a slam, although you become a stronger poet & performer by coming to lots of slams and getting a feel for how it works, and by practice, practice, practice.

This page is largely drawn from and inspired by Poetry Slam, Inc. (with their permission): http://www.poetryslam.com/. The VLP reserves the right to change its slam rules and make any adaptations necessary to best meet the needs of our local literary community.

For slam judge instructions, see http://www.usd.edu/orgs/projlit/slamjudgeinstructions.cfm.
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