Michael O'Connell 2 min read

Poetry Slam: Art of the Spoken Word

Art, Poetry & Writing creativity spoken word

Poetry Slam: Art of the Spoken Word

A Poetry Slam is a competitive event where poets perform their own poetry on stage. Performances are judged on how much the poem moves the audience.

During open slams, poets perform one piece of original work that will be scored 1-10 by five different judges, dropping the lowest and highest score.  Before the first competing poet, there is a ‘sacrificial poet’, who performs to warm up the judges scoring. After the first round, low scores are eliminated and the top few poets slam again. Eventually, two poets are left in the finals.

Slam poets pour their hearts and souls on stage while communicating their deepest thoughts. Some slams are powerful enough to change perspectives and they never fail to include a line or two that gives you goosebumps.

There are many styles of slam poets ranging from “ranting hipsters, freestyle rappers, bohemian drifters, proto-comedians, mystical shamans to gothy punks” as described by Slam master, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. You never hear the same poem twice or the same side of an issue.

So, what does it take to be a slam poet? One thing and one thing only: honest expression. Express your emotions, express your thoughts, and express the glimpses of your life your willing to share.

Helpful Slam Tips

  • You don’t need to rhyme words as much. In a slam poetry the pauses and pronunciations of your words create the rhythm and that rhythm creates poetry.
  • Be fully honest with yourself. Get down to the core of your emotions, even the little things you might not want to except. Poetry is a strong catalyst for self-awareness.
  • Some slams are more like raps while others are more like speeches; it’s all how you feel and what your mind, heart, and body is artfully expressing.
A poet leaks part of his soul into a book, words brimming with life,
Vibrant and alive,
Trying to speak but sealed between pages never to depart
But still waiting to arrive

Waiting to be told , because every time we write these words
we hear how they want to be spoken,

And when we speak them,

They create a symphony of expression
Our souls compose and ours lyrics are our lessons

See when you slam,
Your mind becomes a storyteller,
Your body a dancer,
And your heart a jazz musician,
All trying to communicate the messages of your soul

Sharing that symphony with someone is something to behold.

Some Amazing Slam Poems

“For Those Who Can Still Ride An Airplane For The First Time”– Anis Mojgani

“The Anti-Love Love Poem” – Joanna Hoffman

“Ohm” – Saul Williams

“A Salm Ov Regret and Psalvayshun” – Marty Schoenleber III

“Go Ahead Open It” – Michael O’Connell

“Cotton in the Air” – Derrick Brown

Let’s go HEthens and get a Slam thread going below — I’ll kick it off! I’m excited to see what kind of unique slams you guys can come up with!


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