What is a poetry slam?

2018-2019 Slam dates: 

Friday, December 28, 2018 – Youngstown Cultural Arts Center

Saturday, January 26, 2019 – Hillman City Collaboratory

Sunday, February 24, 2019 – Washington Hall

Friday, March 29, 2019 – Centilia Cultural Center

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

  • For up to 3 rounds, 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.

Every year, Youth Speaks hosts 3 preliminary slams, one Wildcard slam, and the finale Grand Slam in April. The finalists in the prelim slams and wildcard slam compete for the top 5 spots in Grand Slam, and the esteemed opportunity to represent Youth Speaks Seattle at the international youth poetry competition, Brave New Voices. 

“The point is not the points, the point is the poetry!”

That’s what we chant at every slam. 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’s voices in a world where they are often silenced
  • To showcase the incredible power, talent, and voice of young people in the 206
  • To allow healing to take place through the power of stories

How do I compete in a poetry slam?

  • MUST be age 13-19 by July 2019 to be eligible. If you are 20 by July 2019, you cannot compete. 
  • Bring 3 original poems to perform
  • Each poem must be NO LONGER than 3 minutes and 40 seconds
  • Come 20 minutes early to sign up! Spots go fast! 
  • Each poet can only compete in ONE prelim slam, but if you don’t place, you will get another chance to compete in the Wildcard Slam, where the one winner qualifies for Grand Slam.
  • Please print and bring a signed Student Media Release form (optional, but helpful in case we take a photo of you). If you’re not able to print one beforehand, there will be forms to fill out when you arrive. **If you’re under 18, you will need a parent/guardian signature**

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 within the top 3 spots in Prelim Slams 1,2, or 3, OR win the Wild Card Slam
  • Attend 2 Youth Speaks Seattle writing circles and open mics 
  • Attend 2 Writing Circles
  • Once qualified: attend at least one Performance Preparation session in March. 

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. Additionally, open mics and writing circles are helpful spaces poets to practice for 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, the top five poets will meet with their fellow team members and coaches and go over commitments. 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 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