The term slam poetry is used to describe the poetry performed at poetry slams.
It is often interchangeable with the term spoken word poetry.
There are groups that argue slam poetry and spoken word aren't synonymous; I'm not of that belief.
The one discrepancy I would point out is that 'spoken word' is often connotative of something religious. I'm not going there, not for the purpose of this blog. That's a can of freakin' worms.
Slam poetry (in MY view) is free-form poetry that utilizes poetic tools and devices to convey a story, message or feeling toward a particular issue or topic. OK, that's broad as fucking hell and super-generic. So let's get raw.
Here's how I define/describe slam poetry
Slam poetry is a playground.
It's an opportunity.
It's freedom to rein your awesomeness and fly any flag you wish to wave without scrutiny.
It's the Planet Fitness of the poetry world - judgement free. (I know, poetry slams are judged - I'll get to that in a minute).
What that means is slam poetry is open to anyone and everyone who wishes to put some power behind their opinion and voice their thoughts and views.
Slam poetry is never "bad". It's an expression of someone's feelings. Those feelings can't be wrong - they can only be evaluated based on your own opinion. That evaluation is what makes slam poetry enjoyable, exciting and even controversial.
Here's the kicker: Slam poetry is about feelings, emotions and stories, but: its mixed with personal style and it displays intimate characteristics.
That style has to be your own and those characteristics must be innate - and that's what makes poetry slam poetry. Once you nail that concept, you're ready to impart your wonder to the world.
Characteristics of Slam Poetry
When you hear someone perform slam poetry, you know instantly its not your average poem.
By that I mean its not what you've studied or learned somewhere in academia.
Its not so fucking boring.
Slam poetry is real - it tackles serious issues, personal challenges and the concerns that are running rampant in your mind.
Its generally much more in-your-face, grab-your-gut, wrench-your-feelings and identify-so-fucking-much-you-can-cry than most poetry you've previously been exposed to.
But that doesn't mean 22 Jump Street did slam poetry any justice - it's not "Slam. Poetry. Yelling. Angry. Waving my hands a lot. Specific point of view on things. Cynthia. Cyn-thi-a. Jesus died for our Cynthia's. Jesus cried. Runaway Bride. Julia Roberts. Julia, why." (If you haven't seen the slam poetry scene in 22 Jump Street, have a quick look at the video)
Slam poetry does not inherently mean aggressive poetry.
It does not mean angry poetry.
It doesn't mean rhyming poetry, rap-poetry, ranting poetry or any other broad categorization you may have heard or been led to believe.
Can it include any of those things? Yes, absolutely. But the underlying characteristic that makes a poem slam poetry is the manner in which it is delivered and performed.
Slam poetry is a type of performance poetry.
Slam Poetry is for Anyone & Everyone
Since slam poetry has really caught fire across the globe, there seems to be this stigma that "slam poetry is young" - meaning its for 'kids'.
I'm 36 (don't hold it against me). And I thrive on slam poetry. I love taking it in, using it to escape and, above all, it's a fantastic means of cross-generational communication.
In many eyes, adults don't listen to kids - and vice versa. Slam poetry eradicates that cultural barrier. It's about all ages, races and cultures among each other for the love of the art that slam poetry is.
To prove it, here are three examples of slam poems from three completely different kinds of artists - and they're all fantastic; unique in their own niche.
Ages range, ethnicities are different, cultural backgrounds vary, country of origin, sex, where they grew up - it all varies from poet to poet. Slam poetry is an art dedicated to you - whoever you are. Slam poetry is for everyone.
Now you know what slam poetry is and you've seen some examples. Next step...
What is a Poetry Slam
Poetry slams are the forum in which artists perform their slam poetry and spoken word pieces.
In general, they are competitive forums, though I've been to "friendly slams", where its poetry for the sake of poetry.
The competitive nature of the poetry slam is really what fuels the progression of the culture and movement.
The format of a poetry slam can vary, but here are some general bullet points on what you should expect.
Poetry Slam Format & Rules
I hope this overview gives you a good idea of what slam poetry is (to me), and what poetry slams are. If you're looking to broaden your horizons and gain some more knowledge of slam poetry and spoken word, here is some recommended content: