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Team Selection rules and format

The 2019 qualification period is now closed. Open slams to qualify for the 2020 Boston Poetry Slam team will begin in August, with team selection finalizing in spring 2020.


Cantab Team Selection Slam Rules (all nights)

  • Only qualified poets listed on the website may slam.
  • Poets who wish to slam will check in to draw no later than 8:30 p.m.
  • Poets will not have to pay the cover charge.
  • Competing poets may not read in the open mic, feature, or host any portion of the open mic or slam.
  • Competing poets may not work the door, wait tables, or bartend.
  • Five or seven judges (or teams of judges) will be selected by the slam host and bout manager. Up to four of these judges may be pre-selected by the slam series curator. When possible, pre-selected judges will be announced one week in advance of the slam.
  • There will always be at least one warm-up poet before the slam. Whether or not there is a break and/or sorbet poet between rounds of the slam will be left to the discretion of the host and bout manager.
  • The following traditional slam rules apply: poems must be the poets’ original work and no props, no costumes, or music will be permitted.
  • NEW FOR 2019: Poets will be subject to a total time limit, plus a single 10-second grace period, over the course of the rounds in a night. The usual time penalty of half a point for every 10 seconds over time will be applied to the total. Poets may “spend” their stage time in any combination, with no penalty for using less time: for instance, when the total time limit is 4 minutes, poets could without penalty perform a 3-minute poem and a 1-minute poem, or a 2-and-a-half-minute poem and a 1-and-a-half-minute poem, or a 1-minute poem and an 18-second poem, etc.
  • All poets will perform in all rounds every night; there is no elimination between rounds.
  • Scores are not cumulative between nights; each night is clean slate.
  • During the course of the three-night series, competitors must present at least one poem that has never before been performed at the open mic or slam at the Boston Poetry Slam @ the Cantab Lounge. Poets who do not meet this requirement by the end of the final round of finals will be disqualified. Final ruling on what constitutes a “new” poem will come from the Slam Series Curator (unless the SC is in the slam, in which case it will come from the bout manager). To avoid confusion, poets are encouraged to self-report their “new” poem to the scorekeeper or bout manager immediately after performing.

Team Selection Preliminaries Rules and Format

  • All poets who have qualified to slam, even those who do not intend to represent the venue as a member of the team, are encouraged to slam.
  • NEW FOR 2019: If there are more than 15 qualified poets who wish to slam, competitors will be split into two separate slams. The two slams will run on the same night with a short break in between. Competitors will be split by a method TBD. 2019 Prelims will be a single slam due to a small enough roster size.
  • The order for both rounds will by by random draw before the bout.
  • NEW FOR 2019: The total time limit for preliminaries is 4 minutes per poet over two rounds.
  • Poets may use any original poem in their repertoire in any round, including poems used in previous open slams and poems used to qualify in previous years.
  • If there is a single slam, the top eleven cumulative scorers will be invited to semi-finals. If there are two prelim slams, the top five cumulative scorers in each prelim will be invited; if one slam is larger than the other, six will advance from the larger slam. If there is a tie for the last spot in any prelim to advance, all tied poets will be invited to advance.

New for 2019: Last Chance Slam Rules and Format

  • The Last Chance Slam is an open slam: a minimum of eight poets will be drawn from poets who sign up no later than 9:00 p.m.
  • Competing poets will be subject to the same rules outlined for the rest of the Team Selection Slams (above).
  • The total time limit for the Last Chance Slam is 4 minutes per poet over two rounds.
  • The order for both rounds will by by random draw before the bout.
  • Poets may use any original poem in their repertoire in any round, including poems used in previous open slams and poems used to qualify in previous years, EXCEPT poems used in prelims this year, if applicable.
  • The top cumulative scorer is guaranteed an invite to advance to Semi-Finals. IF only ten poets were invited to advance from Prelims (see above), the second place Last Chance cumulative scorer will also advance. If there is a tie for the final slot to advance, all tied poets will be invited.

  • Team Selection Semi-Finals Rules and Format

    • Poets who have qualified to slam but do not intend to represent the venue as part of the team are encouraged (although not required) to drop out to permit the next poet(s) from preliminaries to advance.
    • The order of the first round will be based on the cumulative finish from preliminaries (lowest finisher first, top-scoring poet last, with ties resolved TBD by giving the poet with the lowest total draw a higher finish). The order for the second round will be by random draw before the bout.
    • NEW FOR 2019: The total time limit for semi-finals is 7 minutes per poet over two rounds.
    • Poets may not use poems they used in the previous week’s preliminaries.
    • The top eight cumulative scorers will advance to finals. If there is a tie for the last spot to advance, all tied poets will be invited.

    Team Selection Finals Rules and Format

    • Poets who slam in the finals are considered committed to the venue’s slam team. Poets without intent to represent the Boston Poetry Slam are asked not slam to in finals.
    • The order of the first round will be based on the cumulative finish from semi-finals (lowest finisher first, top-scoring poet last). The order for remaining round(s) will be by random draw before the bout.
    • NEW FOR 2019: The total time limit for finals is 9 minutes per poet over three rounds.
    • Poets may not use poems they used in the previous weeks’ preliminaries or semi-final.
    • The top four scorers (cumulative over all three rounds) comprise the Boston Poetry Slam Team.
    • If there is a tie for the fourth slot, all tied poets will return to the stage for one more round, using the same order as the tied round. Tie-breakers will be scored by judge preference rather than numerically, and no time penalties will apply.

To see a list of benefits and expectations of those who achieve the Boston Poetry Slam Team, as well as the replacement hierarchy in the case of a team member who departs the team mid-season, please click here.