Poetry Slam

13 Oct

Poetry Slam. The term even sounds intriguing.

Last month I attended my first poetry slam at the Women of Steel Gallery in Garden City. A slam is not a typical poetry reading. It’s competitive, performed poetry. It’s loud. It’s ruckus. It’s a whole lot of fun.

Marc Smith, a construction worker from Chicago, is credited with the origination of the poetry slam. A construction worker—how cool is that?

The M.C. of the slam I attended was highly entertaining, and he started things off by serving as the “sacrificial poet.” He read his poem to the audience with Shakespearean theatrics, and the five judges, selected from the audience, gave him a score. The intent of this “sacrificial” reading was to help the judges calibrate their rating system, which consisted of a wooden paddle with numbers.

After this introduction the actual competition began. Each poet had three minutes to present his or her original work of poetry. The audience cheered, hooted, and hollered at the end of each reading.

If the poet were to exceed the time limit, the jeering audience would yell, “You rat bastard, you’re ruining it for everyone.”

After each reading, the five judges held up their individual scores, awarded for the quality and delivery of the poem. Again, the audience cheered, hooted, hollered, and, in some cases, booed and harassed the judges (it’s not bad behavior, it’s part of the fun). The highest and lowest scores were dropped, and the remaining three were tallied.

The event I attended was upbeat and exciting. The poetry was good. The energy was high.

Give it a try. You might even be moved to perform. It is, I should note, a free speech event. Poems are not censored, so poetry slams are not for the easily bristled.

Slams are held at the Ladies of Steel Gallery in Garden City and at the Neurolux Lounge in Boise. There’s $5 fee ($1 for students). A workshop is held prior to the Ladies of Steel slam, which tends to draw a college-age crowd. For the slam held at the lounge, participates must be 21.

Here’s a website for Big Tree Arts where you can find more information on Poetry Slams:


Posted by on October 13, 2011 in artist, Idaho, poetry


Tags: , , ,

10 responses to “Poetry Slam

  1. johannaharness

    October 13, 2011 at 5:49 AM

    Thanks for this, Carley. I’ve never been, but always thought about going. Maybe now I will.

    • Carley Ash

      October 13, 2011 at 6:09 AM

      I think you’d love it, Johanna.

  2. Laura Dion-Jones

    October 13, 2011 at 6:31 AM

    Marc Smith is a good friend of mine. He’s been on my radio talk show and I’ve been to his slams all over Chicago. In fact, Marc Smith and his Poetry Slam just celebrated their 25-year anniversary at the Metro in Chicago this past August. Y’all should go to the Poetry Slam in your area and if the workshop before draws college-aged kids – well, why don’t a bunch of you Gem State Writing Gals get your own group up to go and give those college whipper-snappers something to Slam about! And if you ever get the chance to see or hear Marc in person – do it! He’s a real experience and so is another one of his old cohorts, Dave Hernandez from PR. That guy will have you cryin’ with laughter!
    (The Laura Dion-Jones Show airs live every Wednesday from 3-4 PM CST on WRMN 1410 AM or And any of you gals who has an interesting story to tell my listeners, please contact me and we’ll get you booked to come on my show as a special call-in guest.)

    • Carley Ash

      October 13, 2011 at 5:22 PM

      How great that you know the founder. It was a very fun experience. Truly enjoyed it.
      Thanks for the offer. I’ll make sure all the writers are aware of it.

  3. Patsy

    October 13, 2011 at 6:49 AM

    Sounds fun and interesting!

    • Carley Ash

      October 13, 2011 at 8:28 PM

      It was a lot of fun.

  4. Janis McCurry

    October 13, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    Interesting event. Laura, the last poetry I wrote WAS when I was a whippersnapper! A haiku named “Heartbreak is Near” and it was sublimely angsty. I laugh thinking about it.

    Thanks, Carley, for the good info.

  5. Meredith Conner

    October 13, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    What a riot! I wish I’d been there!

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    October 16, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    This reminds me of a cafe I used to frequent in France. I didn’t realize there was anything similar in Boise. Thanks for sharing it with us, Carley 🙂 You always find the most interesting events in town.

  7. Liz Fredericks

    October 17, 2011 at 7:10 AM

    Hi Carley, I’m catching up after having been out of town without internet. Thanks for the blog on the slam. I learn so much about local writing events from your posts!


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