Penning your own slam poetry isn't as difficult as it might seem. Follow these quick guidelines and you'll have a first draft in no time!
Want to create a truly memorable or powerful slam poem? There are various tricks that you can use to make your slam poem stand out from other spoken work poetry at a poetry slam. Read this cheat sheet to write your own slam poetry—and learn how to wow crowds.
- Do Your Homework. To know what makes slam poetry effective, you need to see a lot of it performed. Attend a poetry slam at a local coffee shop or bookstore. If you can't find one, head to YouTube.com, type in "slam poetry videos" and you'll be amazed by the quantity, quality, and variety that you’ll find. Take notes on which slam poems you like best and why they made an impression.
- Choose a Topic. Identify an event, person, or issue that evokes a passion in you. It could be a trip that changed the way you look at life. Maybe you recently fell in love or went through a bad breakup. Or, perhaps you're determined to do whatever you can to fight animal cruelty. When you're fired up, emotions and words are more likely to flow out of you.
- Put Your Words on Paper. Use your five senses to create a first draft. Write down what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell when you think about your topic. Details are key when it comes to painting a vivid picture through slam poetry, so always ask yourself: "could I be more specific?" For instance, instead of writing "I drank a glass of water," write "I sipped on an ice-cold glass of water with a pinch of lemon that was so tart, it made me cringe." Craft your words into short stanzas that lend themselves to a natural rhythm and feel free to use rhyme if you feel like it.
- Edit yourself. When editing, read your poem out loud. If you find yourself stumbling over certain lines that are clunky or too long, that's when you know that a section probably needs to be cut, changed, or moved. It may help to use an online thesaurus if you're looking for synonyms to replace certain words.
- Add a Little Drama. Remember, you're not just reading your poem out loud—you're performing! The goal is to get the audience to audibly react (i.e. laugh, cry, gasp, snap, clap, yell "yeah!") to increase your score. So look for ways to increase the drama. Are there moments where you can whisper or shout? Are there places where you can speed up or slow down? Can you throw in facial expressions or bodily movements to illustrate your main messages?
After you follow these five steps, rehearse your poem and then sign up for a local poetry slam! Note: Most slams do not require you to memorize your poem, but you might want to. When you don't have to hold a piece of paper, you can look directly at the audience and use your hands as tools during the performance, which will give you a competitive edge.
Need a little more inspiration and advice? Check out these additional tips for writing and performing slam poetry, and slam poetry examples submitted by other poets.