Poetics of Slam
Poetry slams can feature a broad range of voices, styles, cultural traditions, and approaches to writing and performance. Some poets are closely associated with the vocal delivery style found in hip-hop music and draw heavily on the tradition of dub poetry, a rhythmic and politicized genre belonging to black and particularly West Indian culture. Others employ an unrhyming narrative formula. Some use traditional theatric devices including shifting voices and tones, while others may recite an entire poem in ironic monotone. Some poets use nothing but their words to deliver a poem, while others stretch the boundaries of the format, tap-dancing or beatboxing or using highly-choreographed movements.
One of the goals of a poetry slam is to challenge the authority of anyone who claims absolute authority over literary value. No poet is beyond critique, as everyone is dependent upon the goodwill of the audience. Since only the poets with the best cumulative scores advance to the final round of the night, the structure assures that the audience gets to choose from whom they will hear more poetry. Audience members furthermore become part of each poem's presence, thus breaking down the barriers between poet/performer, critic, and audience.
Possible guide on how to write slam poetry.
1. Topic. Choose a topic you are passionate about. The poem seems more genuine if written about something you actually care about.
2. Approach. Your tone and attitude toward the topic makes a difference. Are you angry? Conversational? Nostalgic?
3. Free-write. If you have any idea at all, write it down. It may not make it to the final poem, but it could lead you to other ideas.
4. Description. Feel free to use literary devices such as metaphor and simile. One of the most effective tools is an image. If you can get the reader/audience to picture what you are talking about, they'll be with you even more.
5. Be yourself. The most important one. People aren't stupid; they can see through you if you are being fake. Just take the time to write a 2- or 3-minute poem that means something to you. If it means something to you, it will most likely touch someone else.
6. Find examples. It's important for a poet to be aware of what other people are doing. While you shouldn't plagiarize them, you can listen to their rhythm and their words and create your own version. Some excellent slam poets are: Saul Williams, Beau Sia, Joshua Bennett, Rudy Francisco, Rachel McKibbens, Shi-han, and Georgia Me. Shows such as Lyric Cafe, Brave New Voices, and Def Poetry Jam are also a great start.