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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 audiences. 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:

    • Competitions at the Boston Poetry Slam may be themed (in topic, time limit, genre, number of rounds, or other format) or open (restricted only by time limit). Select one that suits you by perusing the weekly schedule.
    • You must come with enough poems to win the slam, plus tiebreakers! If you have fewer than what the scheduled slam page says you need, please sign up for the open mic instead.
    • Most slams have a three-minute maximum per poem (there’s no minimum). You are responsible for knowing how long your poem is, and the host can’t tell you, so we recommend you time yourself at home to avoid receiving the dreaded Time Penalty. Some slams have shorter or longer time limits, so just read the format page carefully.
    • 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 prize, and make sure the host has your email address; that way you can be contacted later to come back for our invitational series.

Still have questions? Get answers from our FAQ.