Tips from an Expert
Getting it Right
Making it Sound Right
What is Slam Poetry?
Performance poetry is written to be performed and uses poetic devices that hold the ear more than the eye.
Here are some general features that many slam poems have in common:
- Most poems are around 2 minutes long (with a 30 second grace period).
- Must be an original work.
- Easy to understand the first time it is heard.
- Rhythmic, passionate and has a “rise” (climax).
- With themes + subjects many people can relate to, e.g. Relationships, Politics, Religion, Insecurity, Family or Social issues.
- Makes a clear statement or point.
- How the poem is performed is at least as important as the content.
Paraphrased from the presentation: Popularising poetry for teachers.
6 Steps for Writing a Slam Poem…
- Do Your Homework.
To know what makes slam poetry effective, you need to see a lot of it performed. Head to YouTube.com, type in "slam poetry videos" and you'll be amazed by the quantity, quality, and variety that you’ll find. Take notes on which slam poems you like best and why they made an impression.
- Choose a Topic.
Identify an issue that evokes a passion in you. Perhaps you're determined to do whatever you can to fight animal cruelty or convince your teachers that school stifles creativity. When you're fired up, emotions and words are more likely to flow out of you.
- Put Your Words on Paper.
Use your five senses to create a first draft. Write down what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell when you think about your topic. Details are key when it comes to painting a vivid picture through slam poetry, so always ask yourself: "could I be more specific?" For instance, instead of writing "I drank a glass of water," write "I sipped on an ice-cold glass of water with a pinch of lemon that was so tart, it made me cringe." Craft your words into short stanzas that lend themselves to a natural rhythm and feel free to use rhyme if you feel like it.
- Edit yourself.
When editing, read your poem out loud. If you find yourself stumbling over certain lines that are clunky or too long, that's when you know that a section probably needs to be cut, changed, or moved. It may help to use a thesaurus if you're looking for synonyms to replace certain words.
- Add a Little Drama.
Remember, you're not just reading your poem out loud—you're performing! The goal is to get the audience to audibly react (i.e. laugh, cry, gasp, snap, clap, yell "yeah!") to increase your score. So look for ways to increase the drama. Are there moments where you can whisper or shout? Are there places where you can speed up or slow down? Can you throw in facial expressions or bodily movements to illustrate your main messages?
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Know your poem and then sign up for a local poetry slam! Note: Most slams do not require you to memorize your poem, but you might want to. When you don't have to hold a piece of paper, you can look directly at the audience and use your hands as tools during the performance, which will give you a competitive edge.
Adapted from https://www.powerpoetry.org/actions/how-write-slam-poetry