Poetry slam is conventionally defined as the art of competitive performance poetry. Invented in the 1980s by a Chicago construction worker named Marc Smith (so what?), slam is a fast-paced competition where poets have a limited amount of time to impress judges randomly selected from the audience. Performers use all the tricks of storytelling, songwriting, theatre, stand-up comedy, and cold hard poetry to wheedle points out of the judges from 0.0 (terrible) to 10.0 (perfect!).
Slam is not a passive performance; in addition to the judges, other audience members are strongly encouraged to participate by cheering, whistling, or mildly heckling the hosts or judges. Poetry slam has had a home in Boston since 1991, and has since settled at two locations in Cambridge: the Boston Poetry Slam @ the Cantab Lounge and the Lizard Lounge Poetry Slam.
Still trying to get a sense of how it works? Here is Mike Henry (as envisioned by Powerhouse Animation), MC Emeritus of the Austin Poetry Slam, with his patented slam intro. Thanks to Kyle Fuller and Mike, who produced this video and passed it on to us to use:
Got the itch to see what slam looks and sounds like yet? Head over to the Boston Poetry Slam tumblr and take a peek at some of the videos archived there.