The Inspiring Poetry Slam

Often when I invite guests over to my home to share good company and good food, I’m running a little late putting the final touches on the food part. If so, I sometimes deposit my guests in the living room while I run around the kitchen getting it together. And sometimes a guest will wander over to my wall of books and scan my readings. I’ve got highfalutin novels standing next to 600 page works of nonfiction next to plays like A Raisin in the Sun leaning on volumes of chick lit. A couple of shelves are reserved for my favorite children’s books.

Sprinkled throughout are compilations of poetry, old and new. Periodically, in a quiet moment I pull a volume off the shelf and read a favorite poem, softly, out loud. I’ll bet this sounds familiar to those of you who love poetry.

Find Yourself a Poetry Slam!

So here’s an idea for a bolder approach, an inspiring approach, a let-it-all-hang-out-and-share-your-poetry-mojo-with-a-crowd approach. Find yourself a nearby poetry slam and share your voice.

What Exactly is a Poetry Slam?

Legend has it that the poetry slam got started 30 years ago in my sweet home Chicago. But nowadays, there are poetry slams all over the country. There are big ones that include an open mic portion followed by established talent that can take your enthusiasm to another level. There are smaller venues that might be just right if you’re a little timid. There are slams connected with charity events for those who want to combine their love of poetry with donations for a good cause. There are slams just for youth. And if you get really good at it, there’s the annual National Poetry Slam competition for the best of the best.

You can go solo or take the stage as a group. Want to sample some brave folks having fun? Check out you tube recordings of various poetry slam pieces. Here are a couple of recordings I like: this light-hearted group poem and this serious solo poem. Find your own favs. If you get inspired, do your own.

From the great poet Octavio Paz, a bit of his poem Between What I See and What I Say, that reminds me of what a poetry slam is all about:

To hear thoughts,
See what we say.
Touch the body of an idea.
Eyes close,
The words open.


Share links to your favorite poems and poetry slam experiences!

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