Poem topics for slam poems, spoken word, and performance poetry
For the few years I've run this site, the biggest trend I've seen has been people looking for topics to write a poem about.
I get it. We all need a creative muse here and there, an idea that sparks a story and/or a message that is worth sharing.
I've written a few articles with topics for poems. A couple years ago, I wrote one called 9 Slam Poetry Topics & Ideas. Well, 9 apparently wasn't enough... so I've compiled a list of 99 topics and ideas for slam poems! Writer's block, solved.
I encourage you to use these ideas in your own regard and context. Each of these topics has so much surrounding it that they are essentially just "trigger themes" that can/should/will mean something different to each of you. My goal is that as you browse through the ideas here, some of them will prompt a story, event or emotion you might not have thought about for a while, but one that is definitely slam-worthy.
As a quick side note, I am not asking or telling you to become an activist of any sort on these topics. When you read through the ideas, just think about how these issues affect you individually or what passion they spark inside of you. I'd love to hear some really good work done on any of the following topics. Hope you find this useful. If you want you can always send one to me to check out and I'm happy to post a reader's work.
These are in no particular order so stick around and read 'em all ...
Monster list of poem topics
1. The upcoming (or next) presidential race...or just politics or government from any angle really. As long as it's about you and not just a bunch of blanket views, you should be able to keep it original and interesting.
2. Racism: Has it been done? Yep. Should it continue to be done? Definitely. The world needs to hear the personal stories and remain aware of what's happening outside their immediate surroundings.
3. Societal ignorance: For reasons much like the one above, this can include classism, factioning and anything else that you seem to feel which too many people don't see.
4. Capital punishment: Is it legal where you are? Have you ever been involved in a scenario where it came up? What did you think?
5. Homelessness / poverty: This is a personal one for me. I've written about it a number of times. The stories are intriguing to people who have no idea what it's like. How has poverty touched your life?
6. Corporal punishment: Some are for it, some are appalled that it even exists. Have you ever been subject to it?
7. Sex at a young age: When was your first time? What are the pressures on teens and even pre-teens today?
8. Teen pregnancy: This is frightening for people involved. Were you a pregnant teen or did you get someone pregnant at a very young age? What was the day-to-day like? How hot did the emotions burn?
9. The court system: Have you or anyone you known been "through the system"? What was it like? Scary? Dangerous?
10. Pro-life / pro-abortion: Have you ever had an abortion? Considered one? Talked someone into or out of one? It's a mongoid issue that the whole country cares about (at least it seems that way).
11. Affirmative action: Have you ever witnessed or been victim of discrimination in the workplace? How about this: Have you ever been the offender? Listen, slam poetry is an outlet. Don't bottle it. Share your story. I guarantee you have something to say that people need to hear.
12. Eating disorders (anorexia, etc.): The statistics around eating disorders are frightening. Even with all the education, all the social media, all the attention - people still suffer. And it's difficult for these people. If you suffer from anorexia, bulimia or another eating disorder, or know someone who does, then use poetry to help save a life. Let the feelings out. Let the paper bleed.
13. Emotional and/or mood disorders: Social anxiety, panic attacks, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder - there are thousands of them out there. People have to deal with these issues and it impacts their life every minute of every day. What's it like to have one of these disorders or conditions and have to go through life trying to be "normal"?
14. Pollution / green environment: Repeat what I said above - I'm not asking for lobbyists or activists. But I do believe that pollution has affected people and their families globally, and not everyone understands how. Talk to the people - let spoken word be your megaphone!
15. Domestic violence: You see this in the news, you read it online, and you may have even experienced it as a victim or friend or other. How can you let the world understand what you've been through? Maybe you're the person who did it and you've spent years making amends but no one looks at you the same and if feels like they never will. That's tough to swallow; let the hurt out.
16. Thoughts on high profile people who make the news for violence or drugs: Athletes, movie stars, music industry folks - we see it and hear about it all too often. Have you ever had a role model that was a public figure and got caught up in some trouble? What was that like?
17. The education system: Good, bad, defunct, unfair, biased - whatever you think about it, if you have something to say to support your case you should let it fly. It can be about the building, about the system, about a teacher, about your classmates - anything surrounding education that pisses you off, makes you hurt or sad, or other.
18. Gangs: You may not hear about it like you did in the 80's, but don't kid yourself and be ignorant to the existence of gangs. Everywhere. Not just inner cities. The need for acceptance will always be strong, and gangs will always provide cushion for falling youth. Have you been involved in any way (part of, victim of...)?
19. Prescription drug use (doctors): I've been through the medical system for issues related to pain, and I can say first hand that it was very easy to get prescriptions. In fact, it seemed that the doctors wanted to get me hooked on pills to ensure I'd come back the next month. How many of you out there have been down a similar road, or dealt with someone in your family who has? There are a lot of twists and turns to that story, and so many angles this can be tackled at - the angle of corruption, the feelings, addiction and everything it leads to, maybe you even get into the sudden resurgence of heroin in suburban areas - who knows, it can go anywhere.
20. Drug abuse & addiction (or alcoholism): As a poet, you're an artist. And let's be honest - lots of artists do, or did, drugs - many to the point where they were physically and/or psychologically dependent. Maybe it started as a creative conduit, maybe it was another issue like need of acceptance, etc. Regardless, addiction is a detriment to all of society. It affects every geographic region on the map and it's a painful, life-threatening experience. What's your story?
21. Social media / privacy: Has your information ever been exposed, sold or exploited on a social channel? Was your privacy and personally identifiable information compromised? Unfortunately identity theft is a serious end-result, but there are a million other ways this can play out. Write a poem about a story you've been through where your privacy rights were violated and what happened.
22. Bullying: This can happen at schools, online/cyber bullying, in the workplace, in social circles, or just about anywhere. It can be physical or psychological. In any regard, it's messed up and someone suffers. Have you ever suffered from bullying? Have you ever been the bully? What was the context? As a side note, if you were the bully, don't be ashamed. Maybe use your poem to say you're sorry or make amends or talk about how you've changed.
23. World hunger: A global issue that is not going away. Have you ever been exposed to it? Ever tried to help?
24. Climate change: Does it scare you? Do you fear for your children, and in turn for their children? What have you done in the effort to help it?
25. Forest depletion: Do you realize that people are dying every day because their natural habitats are destroyed? How does that affect you?
26. Gun control: With all the news (especially as of late), this is a huge and obviously incredibly controversial topic. No matter which side you take, what's your personal story with guns? Why are you for or against stricter gun control laws?
27. Prostitution: Ever sold yourself before? Ever paid for sex? This topic is just a big, fat emotion waiting to be unravelled in a million ways.
28. Legalizing marijuana: If you're on this site, you may know my history. Even as an addict in recovery, I'm still all for legalizing pot. IMO, if you can drink, you should be able to smoke. What's your opinion? Do you have any great stories about legalized weed, or reasons why it should be legal? Maybe write an open letter to government about why it should or should not be legalized.
29. Sexually transmitted disease (STDs): This is a frightening topic. But even with all the education available, STDs continue to kill people year after year. Have you ever had one? What did you learn? How did you handle it? Ever known someone who had one and maybe died from it? What were the emotions like going through that?
30. LGBT and gay rights: This is great grounds for some poetry! Honestly, its like "Hey world, can you just open up already?" -- that's my opinion. But what about the religious views and the (IMO) ignorant views on the LGBT community? How does this affect you? Are you gay, bisexual, or even curious? Slam poetry is a great way to let these often hidden feelings surface.
31. Sexism: See it somewhere? Been a victim of it? Does it piss and you off? Or - are you supportive of it and want to explain?
32. The job market: What trends do you see? Is there a message to share?
33. Religion / religious discrimination
34. Animal rights (update in 2021 - I'm feeling like an expose piece on Fauci/NIH and the animal experiments might be due)
35. Your boss was sexually inappropriate and there's nothing you can do about it. Or maybe you knew of a coworker who was treated in a sexual way and is scared to come out and say something. What did you do? How did you help? Or did you not help (which is also a great reason to write some spoken word!)?
36. Sexual discrimination in schools and/or society: Where have you seen it? Ever been a victim? Ever harassed or discriminated against someone because of their gender?
37. A time your heart was broken. Recent? When you were 5? They all matter.
38. When you wanted someone you couldn't get: This hurts. I know it does. Maybe you even had them and then you screwed it up - which may be worse. Talk about it!
39. Love that has lasted
40. What it is like to be married: Maybe this one is a funny poem :)
41. Best friend turned lover
42. How love ruined a friendship
43. Telling a significant other you are gay
44. What you're looking for in a true love: Maybe call it "Unicorn"
45. Going through or watching a friend go through a breakup
46. Going through or watching a friend go through a divorce
47. What it's like to feel lonely
48. What it's like to feel depressed
49. Sibling, family member or friend with mental illness
50. Death: This is a loaded topic, but pretty much everyone has some experience with a person they know dying. It's important to let those emotions out, and spoken word is a perfect forum for it. This is a really personal, unique poem even if the topic has been used before.
52. Other terminal diseases
53. Visiting someone on hospice care
54. The last time you said goodbye to something
55. Childhood memories / innocence lost
56. First kiss
57. Losing your virginity
58. Being raped / knowing and talking to someone who has been raped
59. Physical abuse (parents, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, family member)
60. Sexual abuse (parents, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, family member)
61. Corruption in the healthcare system
62. Inability to get quality healthcare at reasonable prices
63. A memory with your favorite aunt, uncle or cousin
64. Why you miss your grandparents so much (or miss anyone like maybe a friend who passed away)
65. The best lessons you ever learned (from a parent, or a sibling, or a teacher, or an athlete, etc.)
66. Being in prison...or knowing someone who is in prison, and how bad you miss them and what it's like for them - maybe they were really beat up with bruises last time you saw them. Maybe depression took over.
67. Write the end of your life like it was a movie: Make some bold predictions.
68. Guilt: What are the things inside of you that are truly ugly and you just can't let out? What are your secrets that you truly have guilt about?
69. An awful dating experience
70. A wonderful date
71. Relive a conversation that stuck with you through the years
72. Talk about your dreams. Not just your aspirations, but your wild dreams. Who do you really want to be? What do you wish you could do? Is it fair that you're not living that life?
73. The mushiest, soppiest love poem possible. Like, take a look back at all the movies you've seen and think about all those one-liners they use. What if you could compile a ton of those, come up with your own as well, and just write a poem that will make any lover cry?
74. Ok, instead of love try going lust. What about an "I wanna fuck you like an animal" poem? What would the sex be like? Can you really get into it, can you really let an audience know what it would be like to watch you in bed? C'mon, sex is curiosity - we all know it.
75. An open letter. This has been done before, it's not original. But what about a letter to someone who is dead? Or someone you just would never be able to contact? What about a letter to someone who pissed you off and you used it just to get the feelings out, but never sent it so it won't cause problems? In other words, maybe someone caused emotion in you and the letter poem is your emotional outlet.
76. Is there anyone you've ever thought about stalking? Come on, don't lie - be honest with yourself (it makes for a better poem). If there is, or if you've done it, tell the rest of us what it's like!
77. Ever have someone speak to you in a way that you really don't appreciate, but you couldn't say anything at the time? Were they totally condescending and out of line? What did they say? What did it trigger in you?
78. The most challenging situation you've ever been put in. This could be literally anything. Maybe you were stuck between two friends in an argument. Maybe you found out your wife or girlfriend was pregnant and you were about to be deployed overseas (or you're the woman in that scenario). Maybe you found out someone was cheating in a relationship and didn't know what to do, what to say, or who to tell. This topic is basically list of topics in itself.
79. A pet that died. We hear a lot of poems about people, but if you had a pet die it can be done powerfully as well. Especially if you start to think about all the times in your life that would have been harder or just different without your pet. Maybe it's about the people who came into and left your life during the life of your pet. Again, these are just ideas -make them yours.
80. Things that scare you. Fears. Are you afraid of not living up to something? Are you afraid of losing your job? Do you fear the dark? Any fear is legit.
81. Have you ever committed a crime? What was that like? Adrenaline? Frightening? How about if you've been an accessory or known about a crime? What is the guilt like?
82. What is the most special place you hold in your heart? A spot in the woods no one knows about? Your kindergarten class? Hiking? What happens when you think about that place?
83. Have you ever moved before? That's gotta be pretty emotional. How old were you? Why did you leave? Did you ever go back? Who/what did you leave behind? What did you gain?
84. What's it like being you? How old are you? Race/gender/social class? How does that impact your life every day?
85. Getting older. What have you learned as the years passed? Did you gain any knowledge and wisdom? What are some of the life lessons?
86. A string of haikus. Haikus are 3 lines each, usually not rhyming. The first and last lines of a Haiku have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables.
87. Your parents. Is it a really bad relationship? A great one? Single parent? Step-parent in the mix? This is a great way to keep your poem completely original, personal, and unique.
88. Betrayal. Has a friend or lover ever stabbed you in the back? Conversely, have you ever totally screwed someone over? This would be super interesting to hear performed.
89. Kids. Do you have any? If so, it's a great topic - the joy, the frustration, the money, etc. If you don't have kids, how do you feel about them? Remember that you were one - are they totally annoying now?
90. Culture change / culture shock. How have things changed for you over the course of your life? What did you like and what do you miss about about your previous culture? What's killing you now?
91. Courage. Have you ever had to be really brave in a situation? Have you ever had to be really honest when it was the hardest thing to do? Courage is one of the strongest emotions and people love to be inspired by others' courage.
92. Someone you met while traveling and never saw again. For me, it was a girl I met in Canada; she was from Florida. We had an amazing few days and then she gave me a wrong phone number so I never spoke to her again. But the memories are burned in me and I know they are burned in her as well.
93. Something funny. A funny time in your life. An event that you thought was just hysterical. Or, maybe the way you feel about someone or something but spun into a humorous light. I'm terrible at this, but look up Beau Sia or Mike McGee - those guys crack me up (and they are awesome poets, too)
94. Your favorite high school moment. Or the latter, maybe your most embarrassing or worst high school moment. How did this affect the rest of your life?
95. In general, how do you look at people (or yourself). Do a majority of people disgust you? Do you think people are ugly on the inside? Why? What about the opposite - do you think you are the ugly one and others are just better than you in some way, shape or form? Are you self-deprecating or a defeatist? Do you think others are?
96. Faith. This doesn't necessarily mean religion, but anything that you really believe in. This is more about writing a spiritual poem, something that motivates and uplifts people. It's usually a nonfictional story of something that happened to you and then a message to try to help others.
97. A poem about everything that you see in your facebook feed over a period of time. You pick the timeframe (it could be one hour, one week, one day, one year - whatever), then write a synopsis of what it is and what it means to you. Does it make you rethink where you are in life? Happy? Sad? Indifferent? Mad?
98. The definition of love to you. I can't explain this one - just, "What is love" to you?
99. MY FAVORITE: What is your favorite nonfictional personal story? Is it something others don't know - or wouldn't expect - about you? The best slam poems come from the heart. They aren't what everyone talks about; they are real and genuine and they reflect what's truly in your heart. This is why most of the poetry on my site (the stuff I wrote) is largely on just a few topics - these are the things dear to my heart and close to my soul.