A quick tip I use to continually come up with slam poems
Something that I've often been asked is "how do you come up with new material for poems?" Its a great question, and there's really not just one simple answer - holistically I let everything that touches my life get vetted out through a process that ends in "can I write about this?"
So what I wanted to do was give some quick tips and pointers to you poets and spoken word artists out there that will help you build out your portfolio and possibly expand to new horizons in your writing.
First, its imperative that no matter where you are and where you go, you have access to a repository for your information. It should be a secret, locked down and secure - something that only you can locate and access; something you feel safe enough to keep your world in (a journal or a diary of sorts if you will)...
Generally a notebook works well. But we also live in an era of technology, so I'd say that a smartphone or tablet work even better for a couple reasons: they are almost always on your person, and you can keep them locked down with your own privacy protection. Plus the information can be stored in the cloud and accessed through other devices and platforms.
Once you've designated where you will keep your information, its time to start filling it up. This is an ongoing process. Here's what I keep in my 'storehouse':
1. Words. I always write down words that I love. I hear new words almost every day. My favorite resource for new words is TV, movies and blogs - books are of course great as well, but I honestly don't read them much. Write down new words and their definitions. If you want to take this one step further, you can also use them in sentences and write down some thoughts and rhymes around them. Good to build up your arsenal.
2. Rhymes. Remember, slam poetry does not have to rhyme. But when it does, I caution you to err on the side of intricacy. Here are a couple good tips for your rhymes:
- We all know that silk rhymes with milk. That's a juvenile rhyme. Its not bad to rhyme easy words, but you should also look for more complexity and attempt to rhyme a few syllables at once. For instance, this is a section from my poem INTRO:
"I was the writer, director and star of a nightmare,
The fighter, protector and scar of a blank stare"
- Intonation goes a long way. Look at Eminem for some examples - words don't have to be exact rhymes in order to sound like rhymes, a lot of it comes out in your pronunciation. They say there's no rhyme for the word orange. I disagree. What if you say "hard binge" - its not a precise letter-to-letter rhyme, but in context hard binge would rhyme with orange.
- Outside/in rhymes work wonders. i.e. the end of one line rhyming with the first part of another line. Here's an example from my poem SICK (using compass and done this):
"So sick of wandering deserts with a broken compass
I've done this far too long..."
- I mentioned that your poems don't have to rhyme.That can be used to your advantage. If you're writing a poem that does not rhyme, you can use a rhyme to exaggerate a strong point. Similarly, if your poem does use rhyme, you can add a line that doesn't rhyme to drive interest to a particular statement portion of it
3. Lines. Sometimes I'm in the shower or in the car, and I just think of a good line. Make sure you write that down. It doesn't have to go with anything or be part of anything, but occasionally those lines will prompt a new topic for your slam poem or a whole new poem altogether. What I'm really saying is write down everything!
4. Ideas for your poems. Have you ever sat down to start writing and said "Fuck, I know I thought of something before, but just can't remember what it was"? Well stop kicking yourself. Write everything down as soon as the thought enters your head. You'll be surprised how much you can forget in the course of just an hour, let alone a day. This journal you are starting can quickly be filled with your thoughts and ideas by writing in it every day and you will then never be asking the question "What topic should I write my slam poem about?"
5. Questions. Slam poetry is known for tackling big issues, social issues and daily pressures of life. It can also be used to take some of life's questions head on. If you think of one of those philosophical type of questions, write it down. Some examples are "Why do we fear the unknown?", "What would make a miserable person smile?", "How come my boss likes that person so much better?", "Why does the law state that...?" - do you get my drift? These everyday questions are the fuse for tons of new material.
I'll stop here for the moment. I've given you the foundation to become a more mature and expansive poet and writer. In essence, I just gave you some homework. So get to it!
**Late Addition - I've added more tips and tricks for writing slam poetry:
6 Tips on Spoken Word Poetry
5 Slam Poetry Tips to Help You Command an Audience
5/15/2018 10:34:07 pm
I love how you said that slam poetry tackles big ideas. I love writing about controversy. The only problem I've had is writing a long enough poem. Any tips for increasing the length of my poetry?
2/26/2021 01:17:23 pm
Thanks for mentioning how slam poetry does not have to rhyme. I want to start a new hobby this year, and I am thinking of getting into poetry. I'll have to read a bunch of poetry and start writing down ideas for poems I can write this year.
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