Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a poetry slam?
Poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry, invented in the 1980s in Chicago. Poets perform their own original work and are judged on a scale of zero to ten by five random members of the audience. It is silly and ridiculous and we love it.

How can I see a slam?
The Boston Poetry Slam presents a monthly poetry slam on Wednesday nights. Check the upcoming schedule to see when our next slam occurs.

What’s the difference between the open mic and the poetry slam?
The open mic is the first event of the night, involving a single three-minute slot where you can perform your poem, banter with the audience, plug your social media, or whatever else you’d like. Slammers perform in a multi-round scored competition for a prize, whether that’s money, team selection, or general bragging rights. For more information on performing in our slams, 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 world! For local NorthBEAST slams check out the shows linked in our sidebar. Otherwise,  search engines are your friend!


How do I get to perform my poetry on the open mic?
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.

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.

The open mic was full when I got there! Can I email or call you to sign up?
No, we do not accept open mic sign-ups in advance. You may send someone to sign up on your behalf, but please make sure you will be in the room when your name is called.

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 75, 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 event on Wednesday. Do I have to get there at 7:15?
Probably not. On most nights, you can arrive around 9:30 and get in during the break after the open mic. However, on nights with a well-known feature or a big 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?
Unfortunately, no. We used to be an 18+ show but due to venue changes we are now 21+. Check our sidebar of other local shows, though – some of them are all-ages! We hope to see you in a few years.

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.

Is the poetry show in an accessible space?
Unfortunately, our poetry slam is held in a basement without elevator or lift access. If you are able to navigate stairs, but would like extra time or space to do so, or if you would like to talk to the show about particular seating or a possible carry-down, please email us directly. ASL interpreters are welcomed free of charge.

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: email your suggestions to us! Or drop a note into the suggestion box that is available when you walk in to the venue. (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, feel free to reach out.

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 space we strive to keep safe for vulnerability. Please respect the artists and refrain from recording inside the venue! If you want to record yourself or someone who has given you permission to record, that’s ok, but be sure to read our recording policy first.

If you folks are all volunteers, who gets the money I pay at the door?
The Boston Poetry Slam proceeds go entirely to our featured artists, with some held over for general expenses and taxes.

How can I volunteer?
We do not take official volunteers– we have a tiny volunteer staff and a large community of regulars that we sometimes rely on to assist or brainstorm our upcoming shows. All you have to do to get involved is show up regularly! Once we get to know each other and you want to consider taking on more responsibility we can feel out what that would look like. Most of our staff positions have been created by someone stepping up and identifying a need in the community that was not being met, and then meeting that need. But coming to the show will also present you with plenty of opportunities in terms of networking with others who have their own ventures — we have regulars who run micro-presses, workshop series, bookstores, venues, and all other sorts of things.