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: http://www.boisepoetry.com.