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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 themed poetry slam in the 10:00pm feature slot, as well as irregular open poetry slams. In general, poets should have three poems ready, be prepared to follow the theme (if there is one), and assume Poetry Slam, Inc. 2018 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, but the Boston Poetry Slam is proud to announce that a team will still be selected to represent the venue, both at home and away, with various honors and awards conferred. Questions? Please chat with one of our hosts or email

For specifics on the venue’s next slam, please see the schedule for the weekly show.