People say words are the most powerful weapons you can wield. Words have the power to persuade, explain and inform. In slam poetry, you have three minutes and 30 seconds to do all three. Poetry is a form of expression and relation between a reader and their audience.
Slam poetry, though is a different a type of poetry and is often competitive and judgmental. There are several levels of competition in slam poetry that fall into two categories: adult and youth. As poets move up in competition the poems get better and judges get harsher.
Youth slam poetry takes you on a journey of self-discovery and allows you to find your voice in this world. Being a young poet means to inspire people outside and within your peer group. Poetry can take you places you never dreamed of going and allow you to meet your poetic idols.
For example, each year in July there is an international youth poetry slam called Brave New Voices, which is held in various locations throughout the United States. In recent years it has been held in Atlanta, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. This competition brings over 50 teams from around the world to compete in two quarter-final rounds, a semi-final round and Grand Slam. Though this festival is primarily a slam competition, it also includes workshops, town hall discussions about pressing political topics and opportunities to express your story in other languages apart from English. The purpose of all the competition is not to win but to create a network that stretches across nations. Each year, Brave New Voices takes a theme to reflect a dire message each youth needs to hear. Over the past three years the messages have been “I want to live,” (2015), “I too am America,” (2016), and “Alive Now,” (2017). These messages reflect poems used to promote empowerment and highlight the importance of Youth voices.
Aside from Brave New Voices, there are also a few regional poetry slams that often determine who will be on the brave new voices team. These competitions include louder than a bomb, hear here poetry slam, Mid Atlantic Regional Youth Poetry Slam and much more. These competitions giveaway bragging rights, scholarships and opportunities to compete in other competitions. In these competitions we see poets addressing topics most people are afraid to address, sharing their stories in the purest form and often connecting to strangers through shared experiences and values.
While listening to poetry you may not connect with every poet, you might not agree with what certain poets are saying but you will meet phenomenal people whose voices can change the world.
In addition to the wonders of Youth slam poetry, there is also adult poetry. Adult poetry is different from youth poetry in various ways. While youth poetry is about making connections, adult poetry is about using the connections you’ve already made to establish a name for yourself. Adult competitions are often more rigorous and tougher than youth competitions, this usually has to do with the fact that adults are more than likely competing for cash prizes. In adult slams such as Rust Belt and Woman of the World Poetry slam, the main goal is to win. It is in adult slams that poets usually lose their voice and drive for poetry. Though this is often true it can be avoided when poets remember that poetry is about writing for yourself, not writing for a score.
In order to help with the transition from youth to adult poetry slams, there is a competition called CUSPI. CUPSI stands for “College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational.” This organization allows college poets to share poetry, engage and learn from their peers. CUPSI is an annual Poetry Festival that occurs for a week in April and allows young adults to explore and develop their writing. It also allows opportunities to work alongside other college students and discuss various perspectives on important topics. It is in this competition that you make your first mark on the adult poetry community.
At all levels of slam poetry, you inspire people or get inspired. Each stage offers diversely talented and cultured poets that change the world each poem at a time. To be a poet is to be strong and brave even when you are falling apart. Slam poetry also allows others to witness and be a part of that strength.