What’s a poetry slam?
Poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry, invented in the 1980s by a Chicago construction worker named Marc Smith. Poets perform their own original work and are judged Olympic-style by members of the audience.
How can I see a slam?
The Boston Poetry Slam presents an open poetry slam most Wednesday nights, and theme, team, and championship slams on many others. Check the upcoming schedule to see when our next slam occurs.
What’s the difference between an open mic and an open poetry slam?
Open mic performers have one stage opportunity to earn a round of applause. Slammers perform in a three-round scored competition for a $10 prize. For more information on performing in our open slam, check out our guide for first-time slammers.
How do I get to be a judge for a slam?
Volunteer your services to the host! You may judge as long as you don’t personally know any of the poets in the slam and plan to stay to watch the whole thing.
I don’t live in Boston! Where else can I see a poetry slam?
There are strong poetry slam scenes all over the United States, Canada, and Europe, with more arriving in Central America and Asia every day. To find the slam nearest to you, try Googling “poetry slam” and your state, province, or nearest major city. You can also try checking the Slam Map or Slam List at Poetry Slam, Inc.
This website is huge! How big is the Boston Poetry Slam?
Our flagship show runs weekly on Wednesdays in Cambridge, presenting an open mic, featured poet, and late-night poetry slam. Additionally, our LGBTQIA+ show, Moonlighting, presents monthly on first Thursdays in Brighton. We also hold occasional special events, listed under “The Boston Poetry Slam Presents” on our menu.
Wait, so not all of the Boston Poetry Slam shows are poetry slams?
That’s right! Our Wednesday show is the only one with a regular open poetry slam. Our other shows and presentations are dedicated to furthering our mission statement.
You have a lot of shows. How do I find the one that’s right for me?
We think all our shows are awesome, but each is a little different. If you want to perform on an open mic or in a poetry slam, watch a full set from a world-class headlining poet, or see some of the best all-star slams in the country, you should check out our flagship weekly show. If you specifically want to dialog and exchange with a queer-friendly community, either as a self-identified member or an ally, we recommend our monthly queer reading, Moonlighting.
How do I get to perform my poetry on the open mic or in a slam?
On Wednesdays at the Cantab, you may sign up on the list when the doors open at 7:15: the open mic fills up very quickly, so we recommend arriving BEFORE door time (on nights with an open poetry slam, the slam does not fill up as fast and may still have slots open as late as 11:00). On Thursdays at Moonlighting, sign-ups begin at 7:30, prior to the open mic at 8:00.
The open mic and open slam were full when I got there! Can I email or call you to sign up?
No, we do not accept sign-ups in advance. You may send someone to sign up on your behalf.
Does my poem have to be memorized? Can I read a poem by another poet? Can I play my guitar?
No, yes, and we’d rather you didn’t. See our open mic rules to best plan your debut.
Will you read my poem to see if I should read it in the open mic or poetry slam?
Nope. We don’t review anyone’s work before the show; the only way to know if it can succeed is to try it out loud. Good luck and have fun!
I hear your Wednesday show keeps selling out! How can I make sure I get to see the open mic?
Doors open at 7:15 for the show and our capacity is limited to 100, which means that shows frequently sell out. We recommend you arrive no later than 8:00 to get in to see the open mic. If we have an exceptionally famous feature or an exceptionally large slam (check the schedule to see what to expect), you should expect a line to form before doors open!
I just want to see the featured poet and the slam on Wednesday. Do I have to get there at 7:15?
Probably not. On most nights, you can arrive at 10:00 and get in during the break after the open mic. However, on nights with a well-known feature or a team slam, the venue stays packed all night and you should arrive by door time.
I’m under 21. Can I come to a poetry show?
Yes! The Wednesday night show at the Cantab Lounge is an 18+ show, so if you are 18, 19, or 20, you are welcome: you will need a photo ID and you will only be allowed in the downstairs bar on a Wednesday night. Our monthly queer reading in Brighton, Moonlighting, is all ages, and also requires a photo ID.
I’m under 18. Can the Cantab make an exception? What if my parents are with me?
Nope, definitely not, sorry. The Cantab is kind enough to permit us to use their space for the show, so we follow their house rules! Underage patrons are welcome at Moonlighting. For more youth poetry shows in the area, please contact the Mass LEAP Collective.
Can I bring my class to a show? Do you offer group rates?
Your class is welcome at any of our shows as long as everyone is of appropriate age (see above), although we cannot guarantee room on any open mic. Our Wednesday show has limited capacity and we do not offer group rates; if you require your class to attend a Wednesday show, we recommend offering credit for a range of dates in case the shows sell out.
Can I hold a fundraiser for my non-profit at one of your shows? What about a release party for my literary magazine?
Probably not. We know there are enough important, worthy causes in Boston to easily book up all our show spaces for a year! But we also have spent two decades building a world-famous slam on the underground poetry circuit, and there are many talented local and touring artists interested in our stage time as well. We choose to partner only with causes that are very close to the heart of our community. If you would like to use one of our hosting venues to build your own show, you may contact the owners of the Cantab Lounge or the Davis Square Theatre.
Will your poets come perform for my class/college/bat mitzvah/supermarket opening/fundraiser?
Maybe. Please read our guidelines on how to book a poet.
Will you book [famous poet I love] to feature at a Boston Poetry Slam show?
We can try: you may email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org! (If you are looking for a feature opportunity for yourself, please read our feature application guidelines.)
Where can I buy a book or CD by [poet x]?
The best way to buy product from a poet in person; many of our open mic standouts and features are self-published and that is the only place to get their work. If you want to find a poet you saw perform at the Boston Poetry Slam, please start with an internet search; if that comes up zero, you may contact the SlamMaster with a description of the poet you are trying to contact.
Why can’t I take photographs of the poets on stage? Why can’t I record audio or video?
Some of our poets sell their art for a living, and others are shy or just revealing new work for the first time. The Boston Poetry Slam is a show, but we are also a community and a safe space! Please respect the artists and refrain from recording inside the venue. If you want to record yourself or people who have given you permission to record, be sure to read our recording policy first.
Why are those two dudes with the big cameras allowed to take photographs any time they want?
Those dudes are Marshall Goff and Rich Beaubien, and they are the official photographers of the Boston Poetry Slam. They have been helping us document the slam and open mic for years; we use their photos to help promote our events. If you don’t want them to photograph you, or if they are impeding your enjoyment of the show, tell them! They agree with us that the experiencing of listening is more important than the experience of documenting it.
Is the Boston Poetry Slam staff really responsible for a weekly feature and slam, a monthly community show, and the recent 2011 and 2013 National Poetry Slams? Are you people superhuman or what?
Most likely. We do all these shows on a volunteer basis, so please thank a staff member if you enjoyed the show!
If you folks are all volunteers, who gets the money I pay at the door?
The Boston Poetry Slam proceeds are split between the bar, the featured artist(s), and the slam (if applicable). On special slam fundraising nights, we put proceeds aside to help send our representatives to the National Poetry Slam and the Individual World Poetry Slam. Moonlighting show proceeds go directly to the featured artist(s).
How can I volunteer?
Please contact the SlamMaster if you have skills or time to offer to the Boston Poetry Slam. Hosting is by invitation only, but we do have a need for committed door staff, slam management and scoring, and lots of behind-the-scenes promotional work, including press releases and mailing list management. Let us know what you can do!