In order to begin a discussion on this topic, I have posted this article from Wikipedia (which allows repostings with proper attribution and a link to its site):
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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, Dada, Improv, or other conceptual limitations. Theme slams sometimes allow performance of work by a poet other than the poet on stage (e.g. the "Dead Poet Slam", in which all work must be by a deceased poet). Formal constraints include changing the restrictions on costumes or props (e.g. the Swedish "Triathalon" slams that allow for a poet, musician, and dancer to all take the stage at the same time), changing the judging structure (e.g. having a specific guest judge at the Manchester Creatures of the Night slam), or changing the time limits (e.g. a "1-2-3" slam with three rounds of one minute, two minutes, and three minutes, respectively).
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. Bob Holman, a poetry activist and former slammaster of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, once called the movement "the democratization of verse."
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."
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.
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."
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, [who] 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 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.
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.
Source: Wikipedia (If you would like to see the links included with this article, go directly to Wikipedia.)
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
A list of Poetry Slams
More About Slams (from a teacher's perspective)
Monday, March 31, 2008
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