Chapter Excerpt

<p>Introduction</p><p>Slams are captivating poetry events that focus an audience's attention on the presentation of poetry that's been composed, polished, and rehearsed for the purpose of being performed—very often in a competitive arena. A slam can be a carnival, a pageant, an interactive classroom, a town meeting, a con game, a versified boxing match, and a churchlike revival all rolled into one mind-bending, border-breaking event constructed to electrify and animate the people listening to and watching it, as well as the performers who bring their words, bodies, and voices to life onstage to actuate it.</p><p>As you'll learn in the chapters to come, competition is not the solitary heartbeat at the core of the poetry slam, but it has been an important catalyst to its growth. In tournaments around the world competitive slam poets battle against one another like wrestlers vying for a championship belt. Poets of all ages and all cultures participate in local, national, and international poetry slam competitions to claim superiority as both poet and performer, and to have their words heard by high energy audiences known to roar approval or stomp their boots in scorn for the poetics they love or pretend to hate.</p><p><strong>Where Is Slam?</strong><br>Poetry slams can be found nearly anywhere—in schools, between office cubicles, at festivals, in bars, at wedding celebrations, at museums, in cultural centers, and even in Laundromats. Performance poets have trained themselves to succeed wherever and in whatever context they're called on to emote—bowling alleys, churches, temples, pool halls, street fairs, commuter trains, discotheques, you name it. The slam's mission has been to throw off the shackles of how and where poetry should be presented. "Try anything and go anywhere" has been the creed. Seek out an audience and compel them to listen. If you can stop bowling balls with a line of verse, you're slammin'.</p><p><strong>What the Slam Can Do for You</strong><br>Slam's primary mission is to garner new audiences for poetry by making it entertaining and accessible. Around the world slams have attracted thousands of new folks to an art form they thought too highfalutin for their tastes. If you're a producer of poetry events or just a lover of poetry and wish to expand attendance at your events, the slam can do that for you. If your programming has become too predictable, too status quo, then slam principles can breathe new life into it. If you're a teacher experiencing difficulty inspiring your students to open poetry texts, the slam can compel those same students to beg you for more to read.</p><p>In a nutshell, the slam has made poetry as vital and as popular an art form as any other performing art. For those who become involved in creating shows and performing onstage, slam has the power to transform individuals and build communities. Lost souls, many who have become the best and brightest of the slam tradition, have discovered their voices and built confidence through the slam.</p><p><strong>What You Can Do for the Slam</strong><br>As slam organizer, you're the catalyst who can make it all happen. You set the stage for the poet performers. You generate the buzz that attracts the crowds. You conduct the show as emcee or recruit a suitable personality to keep the show moving forward and the audience engaged and entertained. Without you, slams don't happen.</p><p>This book is dedicated to you. Through it, I hope to equip you with the skills to make your slam happen. Here, I take you through the process of building your own slam from scratch—locating the right venue; recruiting volunteers; setting the stage, including lighting and sound; lining up performance poets; publicizing your show to raise it to the status of spectacle; and growing your show nationally and internationally.</p><p>I wrote this book for everyone who's interested in infusing their community with the energy of performance poetry and breathing new life into an art form that had nearly died. Whether you're a teacher dedicated to drawing students to poetry, an owner of a bar or coffee shop looking to deliver an invigorating form of entertainment to your patrons, or a regular Joe or Josephine determined to liven up your community with something more intellectually stimulating than a wet T-shirt contest, this book is for you.</p>

Excerpted from Stage a Slam: Create Your Own Poetry Slam by Marc Smith, Joe Kraynak
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