How to Enter a Poetry Slam

Take your poem from page to stage by competing in a poetry slam!


Your poem has been written and your performance has been rehearsed: Now it's time to enter a poetry slam!

Whether it's your first time competing in a spoken word competition or you're an old pro at it, tracking down a poetry slam and then deciphering its entry process can be tricky business. Prepare yourself for a successful poetry slam entry by using these tips.

  1. Find a Poetry Slam. There isn't one centralized group in the U.S. that organizes all poetry slams, so finding one near you may take a little creativity and perseverance. Hit up your go-to coffee shop's bulletin board, check your local newspaper's event section and look at online event listings that are specific to your area. Research venues that regularly hold “open mic nights” (such as coffee shops, bookstores and performing arts centers) as some of these evenings may be dedicated to poetry slams. A list of high-profile slams can be found on the Poetry Slam, Inc.'s online listings across the US, and Youth Speaks also highlights opportunities specifically for young poets. And if you're looking for local poetry groups, be sure to check out our comprehensive database
  2. Figure Out How to Sign Up.This part varies a lot, depending on the size and demand for a poetry slam. Signing up may be as simple as putting your name on a sign-up sheet a few minutes before the poetry slam starts, or it could be as competitive as auditioning beforehand. So contact the organizer before prep your poem and go.
  3. Learn the Rules. Even though there are few rules when it comes to writing slam poetry, a poetry slam usually sticks to strict rules to keep the competition fair. Generally, a time limit of around three minutes is enforced for each performer. No props, costumes, or music can accompany the poem. Judging by chosen members of the audience is based on a scale of 0-10 and can be influenced by a rowdy audience that is typically encouraged to snap and cheer to show approval.
  4. Can't Find a Slam? Host Your Own. If you can't find a poetry slam in your neighborhood, don't give up hope: Just host your own! You could invite a small group of people to your home or school, or you could rent out a performance space for a few hours and charge an entry fee from performers to recoup any expenses. Take a look at the National Poetry Slam rules for guidelines on how to structure your own slam.


Need inspiration and advice in order to create your own slam poem? Check out these tips for writing and performing slam poetry, and slam poetry examples submitted by other poets.


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