Get inspired by the work of some of the best slam poets performing today!
While you’re always welcome to read slam poems, ideally, this form of “spoken word poetry” is best appreciated when heard live during a performance. After all, poetry is meant to be heard, not just read!
Many coffee shops, bars, and community centers host poetry slams and invite locals to share their poetry out loud during open mic sessions, so go online to see if there are any upcoming shows in your neighborhood.
If you want to hear slam poetry performed live—without leaving the privacy of your living room or bedroom—you can also check out YouTube, where you’ll find videos of performances by the best slam poets on the circuit today.
We’ve complied a short list of some of the top performances available online. Just click on the links to watch and listen: You may just feel inspired to follow in these poets’ footsteps and step on stage to perform your own slam poem!
“What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali
National Poetry Slam Champion and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam alum Taylor Mali gives an insightful answer to the question “What do teachers make?” in this performance that went viral and garnered nearly 5 million views. A former teacher himself, Mali provides an eloquent, emotionally charged response that goes far deeper than dollar signs.
“Falling in Like” by Erik Ott (Big Poppa E)
In a sweet, nostalgic, and high-energy reading, Big Poppa E perfectly captures the first sparks of budding friendship (and possible future romance?) among young kids in this poem. A few memorable lines include: “You make me feel goofy—goofy like I blush when someone mentions your name,” and “Girl, I don’t want to make out with you. I want to make a fort with you!” and “On my homemade Valentine’s Day card, I would write ‘I like you’ in sparkles and glitter.”
“Pursuit of Happyness” by Ed Mabrey
Mabrey, an Emmy-nominee and current co-champion of the Individual World Poetry Slam, vigorously recounts an eye-opening interaction with a homeless man at a Subway restaurant that prompts self-reflection.
“Dear Straight People” by Denice Frohman
Reigning champion of the Women of the World Poetry Slam, Frohman explores race, gender, and sexuality in her poetry. This open letter to heterosexuals manages to be both humorous and poignant while reflecting her passion for equality.
“Last Love” by Rachel McKibbens
This nine-time national poetry slam team member and former Women of the World Poetry Champion delivers heartfelt advice to her daughters in "Last Love," weaving in words about overcoming abuse throughout. Some powerful verses include: “Let the man behind the church do what he did if it brings me to you” and “Let my father break me again and again if it brings me to you” and “Last Love, every day without you was a life I crawled out of. Amen.”
So, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite slam poems—but what are yours? Let us know in the comments below.