Slam Poetry

As I stood on the patio eating my ice cream the only thought that kept racing through my head was, “Dammit! Why can’t I do that?” Watching the Geneseo’s Slam Poets perform live captivated me so much that I unknowingly didn’t even recognize my roommate pass me by. I was simply astounded by what they could accomplish. The guy next to me at one point (who reminded me of a mix between a hockey player and someone who liked to steal my goldfish crackers as a kid) turned to me and said, “Whoa. Like. What is this? This is just too cool dude.”

Despite his lack of eloquence, he was 100% right. Slam poetry, to me, is almost a different type of art form all together. It’s an interesting blend of rap and poetry. While the poems we create are usually written down (and hopefully said aloud at one point in our careers from our award winning books), slam poetry is always meant to be heard from the get go. The words might never meet paper for the masses to read. It is written with the intent of what vowels, consonants, and rhyme schemes will flow together when spoken. Also, what vowels, consonants, and rhyme schemes (etc.) can be said quickly. I’ve noticed that when slam poets recite their work they barely breathe! They go through it so rapidly, so beautifully, that my mind almost struggles to keep up. This swiftness makes it even more fun though. Just the idea that these people can memorize and say their poems at such speed astounds me.

The first time I ever really heard slam poetry was when this video below went viral.


I remember sitting on my tiny twin sized bed and watching this over and over again on my laptop. The infliction, the imagery, and just the way the emotion poured out of every line made me want to see and hear more.

Another great one is Patrick Roche’s 21. This is a very haunting poem that made me cry on my roommate’s shoulder longer than I care to admit.

Can we do this with our poetry as well? Absolutely. Yet, not all poems can be turned into a slam poem. I think that one has to cater a poem to fit this type of style (which definitely isn’t an easy thing to do). Watching these videos, and listening to our campus’ slam poets, makes me so eager to at least try to create something just beautiful.

2 Replies to “Slam Poetry”

  1. Great post, Katie – thanks for these thoughts, and the panache with which you launched us into them (I love that goldfish-cracker-stealing-hockey-player comparison). And kudos for getting some videos on here.

    You’re so right that poetry on the page learns from and responds to spoken word poetry, the way improv theatre is bound up with the devised or written play. And there’s poet’s like Pat Rosal who interweaves both elements really skillfully – might be someone to check out.

    Here, too, is the inimitable Amiri Baraka on the importance of the body, breath, sound etc in poetry

    A typewriter?–why shd it only make use of the tips of the fingers as contact points of flowing multi directional creativity. If I invented a word placing machine, an “expression-scriber,” if you will, then I would have a kind of instrument into which I could step & sit or sprawl or hang & use not only my fingers to make words express feelings but elbows, feet, head, behind, and all the sounds I wanted, screams, grunts, taps, itches, I’d have magnetically recorded, at the same time, & translated into word–or perhaps even the final xpressed thought/feeling wd not be merely word or sheet, but itself, the xpression, three dimensional–able to be touched, or tasted or felt, or entered, or heard or carried like a speaking singing constantly communicating charm. A typewriter is corny!!:

    (From “Technology & Ethos,” , Amistad 2 (1971) Ed. by Charles F. Harris and John A. Williams.)

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