What is a poetry slam?

A slam is a competitive performance poetry reading. There are only three rules:

  • Poets must perform their own original work.
  • No props, costumes or musical accompaniment
  • There is a time limit of 3 minutes, with a 30 second grace period. (After 3:40 seconds, you will be docked points.)

Five judges are randomly selected from the audience, scoring poets anywhere between 0 to 10.0 High and low scores are dropped, three in the middle are added to give the total score.

At Youth Speaks Seattle, we like to chant, “The points are not the point, the point is the POETRY!” We believe scores do not have the power to define us, or our experiences. We recognize that scores can have an impact on participating poets but they are not the reason we come together. We use the slam format as a tool to gather community and ignite a space of artistry, truth and social change.

Why Slam?

  • To provide a stage, a mic, and a crowd to authentically witness young people in a world where they are often silenced
  • To showcase the incredible power, talent, and voice of young people in the 206
  • To create a space of reverence for truth in a society of lies
  • To allow healing to take place through the power of stories
  • To HAVE A GOOD TIME! we gets it poppin tho
  • To qualify for the Grand Slam where finalist poets battle it out to earn one of 5 spots on the Youth Speaks Seattle Slam Team. Those 5 poets will compete at Brave New Voices, the International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, where they win a trip to BNV (in a different city every year) and connect with young artists & activists from across the world!

How do I compete in a poetry slam?

  • MUST be age 13-19 by july 2016 to be eligible
  • Bring 3 (THREE) original poems to perform
  • Each poem NO LONGER than 3 minutes and 40 seconds
  • Come early to sign up!
  • Each poet can only compete in ONE prelim slam, but if you don’t qualify, you will get another chance to slam at the Wild Card.

How do I get qualified for Grand Slam?

***new system of qualification from past years – read through this section entirely! ***

In order to qualify for Grand Slam, competing poets must:

  • Place in the top 3 spots in Prelims 1,2,3 OR win the Wild Card Slam (**note: this is different from last year. Only the winner of Wild Card will move on to Grand Slam. The Grand Slam will feature 10 poets.)
  • Attend 2 Open Mics
  • Attend 2 Writing Circles
  • Volunteer once at a slam or open mic (Spokes meet this qualification through their internship)
  • **Once qualified: you must attend at least one Performance Preparation session during the month of March.

We have changed the qualification system this year so that qualifying for the Grand Slam does not simply mean competing in a single slam, but rather, being an invested member of the Youth Speaks Seattle community, through many different channels. Additionally, open mics and writing circles are helpful tools for preparing poets to perform at slams.

If poets place in a slam but have not attended open mics or writing circles, qualification will be given to the next poet on the list that has in their prelim or from the Wild Card.

If I made the team, what is required of Brave New Voices team members?

After the Grand Slam, once the top five poets are selected, they will go through a commitment process with their fellow team members and coaches. They will meet individually with coaches and Arts Corps staff to be in deep conversation on if they are able to commit fully to the BNV team experience. Attending BNV is a huge honor and will only extended to those poets who have the capacity to fully participate.

Some of the requirements of BNV team members will include:

  • 2-3 rehearsals a week
  • Writing and meeting up with teammates outside of rehearsal
  • Performing at public events for practice
  • Honoring Youth Speaks and BNV team community agreements
  • Building community with fellow team members with kindness, respect and authenticity