The MC Spiel

What you are about to witness is a poetry slam. The competitors, of whom there are 8, will perform their own original work, 3 minutes in time length or less. They will use no props, no costumes, no animal acts and no musical accompaniment.The judges, of whom there are 5, will take those hard wrought words and score them, Olympic style, zero to ten. Zero… the worst poem ever written. So bad that the poet should be forced to play in traffic so we never have to hear it again. Ten… the perfect poem. World peace and spontaneous orgasms throughout the room. We’ll drop the high, we’ll drop the low, add them together and poof, we have a score. The poet with the highest combined score after two rounds is declared the winner. Judges, please use one decimal point as it helps avoid ties.

Poets who go over 3 minutes are taken out back and shot. Either that or we give them a ten second grace period and then start deducting half a point for every 10 seconds they go over after that. Judges, don’t worry about the time, we’ll take care of it after you give your scores.


So what’s this Slam thing anyway?

We’re glad you asked that… Slam poetry can be moving, funny and deadly serious, sometimes all in the same poem. Simply put, poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. It puts a dual emphasis on writing and performance, encouraging poets to focus on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. A poetry slam is a competitive event in which poets perform their work and are judged by members of the audience.

One of the best things about poetry slam is the range of poets it attracts. You’ll find a diverse range of work within slam, including heartfelt love poetry, searing social commentary, uproarious comic routines, and bittersweet personal confessional pieces. Poets are free to do work in any style on any subject.

Most slams consist of two rounds, though team semi-final and final consist of more rounds. The winner is the poet with the highest combined score at the end of the slam.

PSi Sound like fun? The Poets’ Asylum holds both just-for-fun themed slams and open slams. Check out the Sunday schedule for the dates of upcoming slams.

Looking for more info? Head on over to the PSi FAQ page for all the info you need.

The points are not the point; the point is poetry!!!
— Allan Wolf, former slammaster, Asheville, NC

2011 Slam Structure

Here’s the structure for the 2011 season:

  1. Eight open qualifying slams will be held between September 2010 and April 2011. Each slam will be 2 3-minutes rounds and will allow 8 poets to compete. Open Slams will follow the standard format outlined in the MC Spiel.
    Slam dates for the 2011 season
    September 26, 2010   January 16, 2011
    October 31, 2010   February 6, 2011
    November 14, 2010   March 6, 2011
    December 5, 2010   March 20, 2011
    Winter Semi-Final Slam
    December 12, 2010
      Spring Semi-Final Slam
    April 3, 2011
    2010 Worcester Slam Team Finals
    April 17, 2011


  2. The two competitors with the highest cumulative score after two rounds each slam will advance to one of two semi-final bouts – the Winter Semi-Final in December and the Spring Semi-Final in April.Each Semi-Final will be a two 3-minute round slam. The top 4 finishers will move on to finals (April ’11). 
  3. The top four finishers in each semi-final slam will move on to the 2011 Worcester Slam Team Final in April 2011.Finals will be three 3-minute rounds.In the event of a tie for fifth place we’ll hold a haiku death match to determine the fifth place finisher.The top 5 finishers will become the 2011 Worcester Slam Team. All 5 will participate in the 2011 National Poetry Slam.
  4. There is a no-repeat rule in effect between rounds. The 2 poems each person qualified with can not be used in semis or finals. The 2 poems used in semis can not be used in finals.In essence this means that each poet will need at least 7 slam poems to successfully compete all the way through finals. 
  5. Poets going to finals must commit to being on the Worcester team (should they win a spot) at the close of semi-finals or withdraw. If they withdraw the next poet in the semi-final bout will compete in finals. 
  6. All competitors must complete a contact & poems usedcard when they slam, regardless of whether they move during the qualifier or not. These cards will be used to track what poems are used in conjunction with the no-repeat rule.The host is responsible for making sure this info is requested of the slammers. The slammers are responsible for returning the cards with their contact info before the slam begins. The cards will be used to draw the order.After the order is drawn the cards will be returned to the competitors. Following the slam the competitors need to fill in the title of the poems used (or the first line of the poem if the poem is untitled) and return them to the host. If the cards are not returned then the slammer is disqualified from that slam and is not eligible to move on to the next round. 
  7. In the event that a poet drops out of semi-finals we will replace them with the next finisher from their qualifier in the order of finish. For example, if the second place poet in the October qualifier drops out of the Winter semis then the third place poet will take their place. If the third place poet has already qualified in another open slam then the fourth place poet would move up and so on. 
  8. Following finals should a team member drop off the team the alternate would replace them. If a second person had to drop out then the next finisher from finals would join the team. Should it be necessary to replace more than 4 poets (thus exhausting finishers 4-8 from finals) we will hold a “last chance slam” to replace the missing team member. 

That just about covers the structure and rules. One last thought… Worcester has always tried to stay true to the spirit of Slam. We look at Slam as a friendly competition that is meant to be fun. We try not to take ourselves, or the competition, too seriously. You’ll find great poets and poetry at the Slams run by the Asylum. We hope you enjoy the show.


3 responses »

    • Hi, Beth – This year we are not fielding a team. We are however sending a rep to IWPS in October, and competition will start over the summer. The plan is to send a team in 2013 =)

  1. Pingback: The Dulcet Tones of Balloon Animals Singing in 4-Part Harmony « Apple Tells All

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