What exactly is Slam Poetry?
Well, by its very definition it is “a type of competition where people read poems without props, costumes or music.”
After individuals have performed, their performance and poetry is scored on a scale of one to ten. Each judge will give their opinion on the poem through this vote. The judges can be anyone, not just poets. The purpose of this system is to make poetry participatory for everyone.
Slam poetry does not have to ascribe to any particular kind of poetry. One can be as creative as they please.
The idea of Slam Poetry traces back to American poet Marc Smith. He is credited for starting the idea of Slam Poetry during his performance in the Get Me High Lounge in Chicago in November 1984. In July 1986, the slam moved to it’s now-permanent home; Green Mill Jazz Club.
Two years later, the first poetry slam was held in New York City at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe and hosted by Bob Holman. However, 1990 brought the first National Poetry Slam. This was held in Fort Mason in San Francisco, and involved a team from San Francisco and an individual poet from New York.
The attacks which occurred on the 11th of September 2001 in New York had a profound impact on Slam Poetry. There were many performers who were stuck in cities they had been performing in before the attacks, and so this lead to the creation of a whole new wave of Slam Poetry within New York City. The focus of the poets located there was to gather together as a community and to speak about and to understand the attacks which had been carried out.
One of the better known Slam Poetry movements is the Youth Speaks movement. This was founded in San Francisco in 1996. The movement prides themselves on an “increasingly global movement of young people, picking up pens and stepping proudly onto stages, declaring themselves present.” This movement allows young people, particularly teens, to speak their minds through an art form.
Brave New Voices is a network “designed to create a space for like-minded organisations to share best practises, develop relationships with other organisations and educators,”. There is also a Brave New Voices Festival held annually. At these festivals, there are up to 600 Teen Poetry Slam competitions from 50 parts of the U.S, as well as 5 cities across the world.
There are several clips from Brave New Voices that have gone viral online. The video below of a poem, ‘Somewhere In America’ features a Slam Poem on society within the United States.
This clip caught the eye of supermodel Tyra Banks, and she decided to have the three females in this clip feature on her talk show to give an in-studio rendition of their poem
Slam Poetry is definitely an art form that is under appreciated, and those who take part deserve a lot more recognition for their creativity.