Slam Poetry Tips for Writing & Stage Performance
A poetry slam is a competition where performance poets compete in front of an audience with randomly selected judges - at least that's how they are known today.
Some folks may argue against that format, others may shun it, but that's the configuration that lit a fire behind the spoken word movement and fueled a booming growth in interest.
What makes poetry slams so different than traditional poetry and poetry 'readings' is the nature of the performance itself - hence the terms "spoken word" (it's outspoken) and "performance poetry" (it's executed and animated live in front of an audience).
An influential presence on stage can pour some serious gasoline on a mediocre written poem.
Apart from the actual poets, the audience is a big part of what makes a slam.
Poetry slams are participatory. First, the judges are part of the audience, selected at random before the slam starts. Second, the audience who isn't judging also plays a major role - they snap their fingers (which is music to the poet's ears), they woo, they boo, they laugh, they scream and they let the performer on stage know exactly how they feel by their reactions.
So how does a slam poet wrench that reaction from a crowd?
How do you make an audience grab their gut with identification, snap their fingers in agreement and laugh because they've felt the same thing you're describing?
Here are 5 tips for slam poetry that will give you a better chance of taking the crown from some very formidable (but friendly) opponents at your next slam.
Tips for Slam Poetry: Writing and Performing Memorable and Authoritative Spoken Word Poetry
Tip #1: Know Your Audience - and select a piece that will resonate
Venue and geography are generally indicative of your audiences' composition - and even though your poem is your own, the contest aspect of a poetry slam means you have to cater to the scene to some extent. If you're at a library in rural Nebraska, a piece about the Lower East Side slums or other social issues native to New York City might not resonate as well as something, say political, religious, or outright emotional.
There are no rules that dictate your poem (outside of a 3 min. time barrier), but inherently its smart to know who you're catering to. You'll want to use diction and phrases that ring true with the crowd. If the crowd gets caught up on one line trying to interpret it, the rest of your piece will fall on deaf ears - that's not the way to be remembered!
Sammy L. Jackson definitely has some skills in slam poetry - but he also knows how, when and where to use what! If you're performing at a comedy event, then make 'em laugh!