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What is Slam Poetry?

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Read this article about the history of slam poetry and see if you can answer the true or false questions after. Then, why don’t you try and write some of your own slam poetry? There are slam events happening in most major cities in the world. Whilst your studying it would be a great idea to attend one, and maybe even perform!
Lesson by Caroline

Slam Poetry

Slam poetry is a form of competitive performance poetry in which participants offer works no longer than three minutes and are judged by (1 )randomly picked audience members. The winners then progress to higher rounds with new pieces, and the poet with the highest score in the finals wins a cash prize. The format was (2 )pioneered in Chicago in the mid-1980s, and first appeared in Seattle in 1992.

How Did This All Get Started?

In 1984, a construction worker named Marc Smith was hosting poetry readings in a jazz club in Chicago called the Get Me High Lounge. Marc made up a (3)gimmick to bring life to his open mike format. His idea was to match poets' public performances against each other as if in a fight. In 1986, Smith approached Dave Jemilo, the owner of the Green Mill, a Chicago jazz club and former haunt of Al Capone, and promoted his idea to host a weekly poetry competition on the club's slow Sunday nights. It was here on July 25, 1986, that the Uptown Poetry Slam was born.

Marc (4 )honed his idea and selected the terminology he used from baseball and bridge. The poets competed and were judged, Olympics style, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the highest. Audience participation was highlighted, with encouragement given for the audience to yell, clap, hoot, and holler at poets and poems they liked, and to boo and (5 )heckle the ones they didn't. The judges were just people picked randomly from the audience. His idea was for the poets to consider the audience as well as his or her personal vision, and to remind them of their responsibility to communicate effectively. The readings seemed to humanize the poetry and take it out of its (6 )hallowed academic settings to become something that was owned by everyone. It also turned out to be a lot of fun to go to, on a Sunday night in Chicago.

The first ever National Slam competition was held in San Francisco in 1990, and a different city has hosted the Nationals every year since. Each Slam, if they so choose, can send a team of four people to the Nationals where they compete with teams from all over the North America, and beginning in 1993, Europe. An individual winner is also chosen.

Article taken from historylink.org

Have you ever heard of slam poetry before? If not, here's a video to give you an idea of what it's about:

Useful Vocabulary

  1. random - chosen by chance rather than a plan.
  2. pioneer - a person who is one of the first people to do something.
  3. gimmick - a method or trick that is used to get people's attention.
  4. honed - to make (something, such as a skill) better or more effective.
  5. heckle - to interrupt a public performance with loud unfriendly statements or questions.
  6. hallowed - very respected and praised.

Decide if the following statements are true or false:

  • 1. Slam competitions are judged by professional poets.

  • 2. Slam poetry originated in Seattle.

  • 3. Audience members are encouraged to make lots of noise at slam poetry events, clapping and shouting.

  • 4. Slam poets must consider how well they are communicating with their audience.

  • 5. The National Slam Competition is held in San Francisco every year.

  • 6. Since 1993, European teams have been able to participate in the National Slam Competition.