Tag Archives: slam poetry

Politics and Poetry: Slam Poetry

In the last year, I’ve been giving a series of lectures titled Politics and Poetry for The Socialist Party USA. This is an excerpt from the Slam Poetry section of that lecture.


For those of us that grew up as part of the MTV generation, we were taught that Slam Poetry is this:

If you couldn’t make it all the way through that ‘poem,’ don’t worry, I couldn’t either. That’s Joe Hernandez-Kolski performing “COOL” on Def Poetry back in 2007.

Poetry is also supposed to be about ‘feelings,’ so comedians like Nick Offerman have also put out their own idea of what slam poetry is. This video is from 2012:

Slam poetry is, actually, a competitive form of poetry in which artists perform original pieces of poetry and can be judged by a panel of up to five judges (which are usually random audience members selected from the audience before the performances begin) or winners can be selected from the audience’s response. The origins of Slam Poetry are credited to Marc Smith, a poet who performed in the Get Me High Lounge in Chicago in 1984, but scholars say that the history of Slam goes back much further to African oral traditions imported to America through slavery. And here’s four examples of what Slam poetry actually is.

First we’ll start with a slam poem by Amal Kassir from 2012, a native Syrian, who now resides in the United States in Denver:

Comparing what the perception of Slam Poetry is to an actual Slam Poem done in 2012 is, I feel, a great way to dispel the myths surrounding this art form.

TED: Helpful Talks on Writing and Creativity

I really love TED videos. Haven’t heard of TED? Let me fill you in with some background on TED and its mission (straight from their website):

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics—from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages.

While I listen to random TED videos with interesting topics all the time just because I love to learn, I also find that there are a ton of useful TED videos for writers that talk about writing and creativity. This is a list of some of the videos I found especially helpful towards developing the craft of writing and exploring ideas related to creativity, but there are tons more TED videos out there that are not just helpful for your craft, but can help you research topics you’re writing about.

Where does creativity hide?

http://embed.ted.com/talks/amy_tan_on_creativity.html

Novelist Amy Tan digs deep into the creative process, looking for hints of how hers evolved.

Your elusive creative genius.

http://embed.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Poetry on YouTube!

Aside from having a general appreciation for poetry and recognizing how much more intense it can be when engaging you beyond the page, there are a number of reasons or scenarios why you might watch or listen to poetry performances on YouTube:

1) You can’t make it to/can’t afford to attend an upcoming open mic or poetry event.

2) You need something to listen to while doing the dishes or working out at home, but you’re tired of everything in your iTunes library.

3) You’re curious.

4) You’re bored.

5) You want to be cheered, inspired, touched, infuriated, surprised, or all of the above.

Below is a short list of some of my personal favorite poetry performance clips on YouTube:

Sarah Kay, “Private Parts”: