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poetry slam

Poetry slam is a fast-paced, winner-take-all competition in which members of the audience judge the competing poets on their performed poetry. It was invented in the 1980s in Chicago as a way of drawing a new listening audience to poetry.

The Boston Poetry Slam at the Cantab Lounge holds a monthly poetry slam in the 10:00pm feature slot. By default poets should assume Poetry Slam, Inc. rules are in effect: poems must be the poet’s own original work of three minutes or less, using no props, no costumes, and no musical accompaniment. Poems are scored Olympic-style by judges selected from the audience, with penalties levied for exceeding the time limit. For more information, see the guide for first-time slammers.

Note for 2019 slammers: as of August 2018, the National Poetry Slam is on hiatus. This means that winners in the 2018-2019 series will NOT qualify for a trip to the National Poetry Slam. Yes, this is a major competition structure change for many slams nationwide, and, like many shows for whom NPS is an ultimate goal, the BPS is entertaining suggestions, proposals, and new ideas for the shape of the 2019 slam series. Curious about what this means for you as an slammer? Please chat with one of our hosts or staff members, or email

Starting September 2018, poetry slams at the venue will be themed, with an array of rule simple rule variations for artists and audiences to try on. To see what’s coming up, please see the schedule for the weekly show.