On September 11, 2001, I sat in the back row of American Poetry 200 at 9am like it was any other Tuesday – with a heavy hangover and not much will to be anything more than physically present. Walking out of that class is when I realized that people were buzzing about something. I headed to the nearest classroom with a TV and saw the smoke.
I called my mom, who worked at an office in downtown Manhattan. No answer.
A spoken word piece was born. And the rest of that story birthed subsequent slam poems.
Global and social issues make for some of the most powerful content a slam poet can write about. I was a mere microcosm of the 9/11 World Trade attacks. My story is one of millions. But it has a message. A message that coverts to spoken word.
If you've ever found yourself saying “all these poems are about rape” or “slam poets are always talking about someone who died”…well, in one sense you may be somewhat accurate. But on the individual level, each story has nuances and all are unique and special.
What nuances did your story have? How was the impact you felt unique? Can you explain that in a way that others will feel it too?
Social Issues and Global Matters Make Powerful Slam Poetry Topics
If you’re in search of topics, ideas or some new subject matter for your slam poems, I might suggest writing about some of the global issues that touched your life.
Generally when writing about global or social issues, the goal is not to become a lobbyist. Making blanket statements won’t accomplish anything, never mind the simple fact that you’re not conveying your own message. Events that take place in this world affect us all in a personal way. That personal touch, that back slap to the face blindly delivered by fate - that’s the impetus of a slam poem.
19 Topics that inspire Slam Poems
Here are 19 events that took place in the last decade which you might have a personal experience with or story around. Hopefully these issues will inspire you to write a new slam poem…or perhaps jog your memory on another event that affected you.
1. 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center: take the example above as a cheat sheet. How did 9/11 touch your life?
2. The Financial Crisis of 2007-2008: This might sound dull and dreary, but there are closed doors and quiet back-stories that many of us know nothing about. Maybe you knew an inside trader. Maybe you knew someone who committed suicide because of the crisis. Maybe you had an idea that could have prevented some of what happened...
3. Hamas & Palestinian battles and wars taking place in the Gaza Strip in Israel. This is a current and highly fueled topic for slam poems. It could be about religion, it could be about war and soldiers, it could be about human rights or it could be about the children that are losing their lives. There are skyscrapers of stories and sub-stories happening – what’s your story?
4. Flood in Brazil - 2009. Did you have family or friends there? Have you ever visited a landmark that no longer exists?
5. 2008 Earthquake in China
6. 2007 Massacre at Virginia Tech’s campus
7. 2005 Hurricane Katrina
8. 2004 chaos and riots in Haiti
9. 2004 US civilians slain, charred and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River in Fallujah, while Iraqis chanted anti-American slogans - The Horror at Fallujah
10. 2004 Tsunami in India causing a 9.0 earthquake and claiming the lives of over 200,000
11. Chilean miners story at Copiapo
12. The rise of technology and media - this decade has seen a technology revolution - mobile phones, Facebook, Google, etc. - what's your take?
13. The death of Nelson Mandela, 2013
14. North Korean missile threats
15. George Zimmerman trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin
16. Bombing at the Boston Marathon
17. Obama's election – the first black president in the US
18. SARS, bird flu, swine flu
19. War in Afghanistan - essentially ongoing since before 2000 and perpetually
Other topics that might help you out with writing slam poetry: