A poetry slam is a competitive event in which poets perform their work and are judged by members of the audience. Everyone who signs up has the opportunity to read in the first round; the lineup for subsequent rounds is determined by the judges' scores. Though rules vary from slam to slam, the basic rules are:
* Each poem must be of the poet's own construction;
* Each poet gets three minutes (plus a ten-second grace period) to read one poem. If the poet goes over time, points will be deducted from the total score.
* The poet may not use props, costumes or musical instruments;
* Of the scores the poet received from the five judges, the high and low scores are dropped and the middle three are added together, giving the poet a total score of 0-30.
Slam is engineered for the audience, whereas a number of open mike readings are engineered as a support network for poets. Slam is designed for the audience to react vocally and openly to all aspects of the show, including the poet's performance, the judges' scores, and the host's banter. Audiences can boo or cheer at the conclusion of a poem, or even during a poem.
The best poetry slams include a wide variety of writing and performance styles. This, of course, depends on who shows up to compete and-- beyond the first round-- what the judges see fit to hear more of. The only requirement for judging is that the audience member not be a family member or intimate friend of any of the competitors.
The best slam poets are those who are skilled at both theatrical performance (stage presence, timing, voice modulation, body language and emoting) and pure poetic writing (metaphor, insight, brevity, sonance, wit).
for examples of good poetry slam performances, see: Andrea Gibson, Anis Mojgani, Rachel McKibbens, Robbie Q. Telfer, JohnMark Huscher