Thursday, April 7, 2011

Performance Poetry: Slam

Poetry slam is conventionally defined as the art of competitive performance poetry. Invented in the 1980s by a Chicago construction worker named Marc Smith, 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!).

(from the "What is poetry slam?" page of this year's National Poetry Slam website)

If you've seen the HBO series "Def Poetry Jam" or the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, you know what slam poetry sounds like, but have you ever seen it performed? Did you know that Connecticut has its own Youth Slam Poetry team? The team competes in national youth poetry slams, including the first one in Hartford, CT, in 1998. You can learn more about them at Upwords, "a resource for young poets".

Below is a recording of Connecticut Youth Slam alumnae Alexandra Hart and Emily Oliver performing their collaborative poem during the Providence Slam in 2006.

(Please note that the poets slam about eating disorders and self-harm. If these issues trigger you, watch at your own discretion.)

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