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for first-time slammers

If it’s your first time slamming, there is one important thing for you to remember: poetry slam is a BAR GAME that was invented to engage audience. It was not designed to determine the value of your art, of art in general, or of any poet or artist. However, that is exactly what it seems is about to happen: after you perform your poetry, three or five judges will score how your art moved them on a scale of zero to ten.

Are you ready to be a good sport and bring poetry to the unwashed, possibly drunken masses? Great! Here’s what you need to know:

  • You may sign up for any of the eight slots in the open poetry slam at the Cantab. (You can’t sign up for a semi-final or a Champion of Champions slam: you have to win an open slam first!)
  • You will need three poems to win an open slam. If you tie with another poet, you’ll need another poem. Try not to tie.
  • Your poems may be as short as you like, but they may not be longer than three minutes. (If you’re in a speed slam, you’ll need poems of no longer than three minutes, two minutes, and one minute.) Once you go over your time, you’ll lose points. If you go more than a minute over, you’ll be removed from the stage!
  • Your poem doesn’t have to be memorized. However, it’s worth remembering that the judges will have been instructed to take into account both your writing and your performance.
  • Other than the paper (or electronic device) your poem is written on, you may not bring anything else to the stage: no props, no costumes, no musical accompaniment. You may sing or stomp or clap, but you can’t use anything else to assist you other than the mic.

If you win, stick around for your $10 prize, and make sure the host has your email address. You’ll be contacted later to come back for the Champion of Champions slam!

Still have questions? Get answers from our FAQ.