Topics & Ideas for Writing Slam Poems
I’ve probably stated this before, but coming up with a captivating topic that leads to a great story for your slam poem is not easy.
Slam poems have to be gripping – they need to win the audience’s attention up front and then not let up (for 3 minutes).
Your poems should be able to take people for a ride by conveying a strong lesson or message, teaching something, or bringing reality into perspective.
I’ll be the first to tell you two things on the complete opposite sides of the slam spectrum. 1) Writing slam poetry is really easy. 2) Writing slam poetry is the hardest cerebral activity you’re going to take on for a long time.
Let me explain.
Writing poetry is really easy because I believe that everyone has a story, a message or a position on a cause that should be heard.
BUT… it’s incredibly challenging because not everyone knows the right levers to pull in order to ooze that story out in a compelling manner.
The first step in overcoming that challenge is brainstorming a topic, so I’m writing this post to help kick-start your motor.
I’ve posted a few blogs with subjects and situations you can use to write slam poems about, but there’s a reason I wanted to add some more: I never want you to run out of great ideas! You’re already a creativity connoisseur when it comes to composition; now I want you to be a memorable maven when it comes to breaching new boundaries.
So here are 11 more ideas you can use for slam poem topics...
1) Write a poem about dating. I don’t think I have to explain this one, but it can go in a number of directions. It can be incredibly funny (speed dating? First date? Horrible dates?), or it can be as serious as date-rape. Either way, be sure to bring it to a message or a realization that can be universally identified with.
2) I’ve talked about writing love poems before. Let’s step that up a notch. Write an erotic poem! Write about fucking the daylights out of someone! Write about a threesome or some other crazy sexual experience. Make it suggestive and descriptive. Add some humor. With the right poetic tools, you will have an amazing crowd-pleaser and a poem that’s fun to write and perform.
3) Write a poem that compares society to either a movie or another made-up civilization. For instance, Game of Thrones is obviously a made-up fantasy. The values that the GoT society follows in the show are completely different than our reality – they’re unacceptable in today’s world. Or are they?? How much of the way we live is actually mirrored in things like showcased battles and pride in the number of kills you have? What about paying for sex? Or unfair trials? Etc…
4) Write a poem about how you are completely like, yet totally different than, someone. For instance, talk about being exactly like your mother, yet highlight how everything she does completely pisses you off. It’s a self-exploration type of poem, and you might be able to actually uncover some insightful realizations about yourself and your relationships in the process.
5) Write a poem about a fantasy or dream you have or had. Ever want to kiss the prettiest girl? Ever dream of driving a race car? Beating up the biggest kid on the block? Take the thought, develop it and then bring it to another level. Why can’t or didn't you achieve that dream? What human characteristics were roadblocks? What memories stood in your way?
6) Write a poem that gives a set of instructions or your own guidelines for doing something. How about instructions for a relationship? Guidelines to winning a physical fight? Steps to becoming rich – or not rich? Steps to writing a poem?? Etc…
7) Write a poem about how common sense isn't that common! How many times in your life have you said something like “What is he, fucking dumb?” or “Man, he has no common sense whatsoever!” You can talk about decision making, wits, classes of people and probably a thousand other branches can sprout from this tree. You should probably be able to come up with 20 ideas for your next slam poem from brainstorming this idea.
8) Write a slam poem from the point of view of following yourself around for a day. Be your own shadow. Follow yourself to a place where no one sees you, and then break out some of the secrets or shames that come. Remember, the audience does not have to know it’s actually you that you’re writing about. This is a good approach to using poetry to vent your feelings; it’s like an audible diary, but the audience doesn't realize it’s yours.
9) Write a poem about one of (or all of) the seasons – fall, summer, spring and/or winter. I pick this topic because there is a ton of historical literature and poetry about seasons and there are way too many critics out there who say “slam poetry isn’t actually poetry at all”. Well fuck them because we are masters of prose and poetic tools. So sometimes we should dial it back and give ‘em some art. Damn babies. But I don’t mean you have to get completely abstract and lost (like the way I feel when I read old-school poems); I’m thinking you convey a compelling story that happened to you last winter or spring – maybe that time when your friend wanted to kill herself? Maybe when you realized how unimportant the 7th grade Winter Dance was now that you've graduated high school?
10) Write a poem that is a response to something. This actually brings out a number of topics. You can respond to a news article or story. A movie. A book. Another slam poem. An interview. A public statement. The president’s speech. Basically, any event that stirs an emotion with you can generate an idea for a slam poem.
11) Write a poem using a line or verse from a song that you love. I did this once with Dopesick, Pt. 2. The last line was from Masta Killa of the Wu-Tang Clan ("Assasination Day" was the track from Ghostface’s Ironman album) – “I’d rather pursue death than admit defeat”.
Basically, you can take one line or a group of lines, think about your own story and how those words define or relate to your message, and then let it flow. Script out the story first, then put it in slam poem form – you can use this guide to help.
In case you missed it or want to see even more ideas for slam poem topics, you can check out these three previous posts:
9 Slam Poetry Topics & Ideas
Slam Poetry Topics & Ideas, Pt. 2 - Five Different Ideas for your Slam Poems
19 Social and Global Issues That Can Be Used For Slam Poetry Topics