What is slam poetry?
Slam poetry is a combination of creative writing and creative performance. Traditional poets wrote with the expectation that their audience would experience their poetry by reading it. A slam poet writes knowing that the only way their audience will experience their poetry is through their performance. Slam poetry in schools is an exciting opportunity for students to approach words in an unexpected and creative way.
What is a Poetry Slam?
A poetry slam is a celebration of poetry being performed live. It’s not acting. No props or costumes are allowed. You can write about anything you want. You can perform however you want. So some are funny, sad, angry, political, spiritual and at times…all of the above. Slam poets typically memorize their work. There is a three-minute time limit. So those who have a lot to say ‘slam’ their words fast and furious. This is fun, and can be quite impressive. A poetry slam is very participatory. If the audience likes something the poet has said, or how they said it, they give ‘snaps.’ Clapping and cheering can drown out the next line a poet says, so audiences snap their fingers, to communicate their appreciation.
In schools this encourages students to participate as listeners, encouraging one another and have fun doing it.
My First Exposure to Slam Poetry
My first exposure to slam poetry happened at a big music festival. Right before my band Tribe of One was scheduled to perform, a slam team took the stage. A young Filipino poet named Nereo II performed, Dear Santa. It was the story of a young boy, sleeping on a dirt floor in a rice field who heard of a fat white guy with a big beard that snuck down the chimney of rich kids once a year to give them presents.
I was mesmerized. All the hair stood up on my arms as Nereo performed. I didn’t know if I could ‘do’ slam poetry, but I knew I had to try. The first poem flew out of my pen as soon as I got home. I quickly memorized it and started incorporating it into my concerts. Shortly after that my father passed away, and I found myself back at my parent’s farm where I grew up. As I wandered around the property I was writing down memories and emotions from his life. My emotional observations ended up becoming my second slam poem called, Superman’s Dead. A couple days later I performed my second slam poem at my dad’s funeral.
Slam Poetry Workshop Objectives
Slam poetry workshops give students an opportunity to approach words in a new and unexpected way. Because no one is ever going to read the poem, they are encouraged not to worry about correct spelling, punctuation or grammar. As long as they know what they are saying, that’s all that matters. This removes a huge creative censor out of the way for many students, allowing them to focus on finding their voice to share their story.
I also encourage students to write about subjects they are interested in. Connecting their creative writing and performance with something they are already passionate about and interested in creates a win-win environment.
Slam Poetry Workshops develop creative writing, editing, public presentation, team building and encourage creative risk taking. Many students discover a fresh and exciting approach to communicating with words that they have never experienced before. For six years I have taught slam poetry to students from Grades 2-12.
To book a workshop or residency at your school, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-896-2572