What Is a Poetry Slam:

In case you donít know, Poetry slam is the term used for the competitive art of performance poetry. The Poetry Slam concept originated in the mid-1980s, when Chicago poet Marc Smith came up with the idea of a poetry competition to entertain the Sunday regulars at a bar named the Green Mill. Initially intended as a means to heighten public interest in poetry readings, the slam concept caught on and now poetry slams have evolved into an international art form emphasizing audience involvement and poetic excellence.

In the majority of slams, organizers stage weekly or monthly events in a public space, such as a bar or cafe. Poets wishing to compete sign up with a host, and the host finds five audience members who wish to serve as judges. Poets must follow a series of rules, for example, in most slams, the poems must be of each poet's own construction; the poet may not use props, costumes, or musical instruments; and if the poet goes over the time limit (generally three minutes plus a 10-second grace period), points are deducted from his or her score. Encouraged to factor both content and performance into their evaluations, judges score each poet on a 0.0 to 10.0 scale. Top four scoring poets move on to the next round. In most cities, a slam series culminates with a final slam at the end of the season to determine which poets will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam held every August. This year the 2001 National Poetry Slam was held in Seattle, Washington. (For more information on poetry slams, please visit: www.poetryslam.com, www.nationalpoetryslam.com, www.norcalslam.org or www.poeticdream.com)

Although there are many different types of slams, the district wide slam sponsored by California Poets In the Schools is set up so that it is less fierce than the slams taking place in the urban club scene; however, this doesnít make our less exciting, just friendlier. Our poetry slams are set up like a lyrical boxing match that pits one high school team against another in a three round bout.

Each high school team consists of 8 competing poets, and the poets from each team take turns reading their poems (Point Arena student 1, Boonville student 1, Point Arena student 2, Boonville student 2, etc.) till all the students from each school team has read once. Each studentís poem is judged by an impartial panel (typically 3 to 5 judges who are also published/performing poets or publishers¾ judges look for originality, content, oral delivery) according to a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. At the end of the round, all the individual team memberís scores are totaled, for a team score. This entire process repeats two more times. At the end of three rounds, a match total is determined, and the school with the highest point total wins; in addition, the top five individual scores are determined, and these students are recognized.


P.A.H.S. Slam Team Schedule:

April 24, 2001 at CITYART in Point Arena --- Point Arena High School vs Anderson Valley High School

June 2, 2001at Crown Hall in Mendocino --- Tournament of Poetry with:

Point Arena High School

Mendocino High School

Fort Bragg High School

Laytonville High School

Willits High School

Anderson Valley High School


P.A.H.S. Team Members:

Leela Carpenter

Michael Cuevas

Lacy Glaze

Heather Howell

Monika Moore

Melissa Newhall

Sierra Ratekin

Kambria Reuter

Ashlee Rios


What P.A.H.S. slam team poets need to do:

Go through your poems and pick out your five favorites (or write five new ones), and fine tune them. Add more detail, edit them for content, do whatever it takes to refine these five competition worthy poems. Then practice reading them, slowing down, paying attention to detail, emotion, content.

Thanks again for agreeing to represent Point Arena High School in the Mendocino County High School Poetry Slam Competition. My plan is for us to get together and practice reading a couple of times before the competitions, but for now, I hope this helps you start thinking about the upcoming Poetry Slams.

Email me if you have any questions or to learn more about setting up one of your own.


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