What is a poetry slam?
In the mid 1980s, a Chicago construction worker named Marc Smith (along with several other friends) put on a competitive poetry reading judged by the audience and called it a poetry slam (apparently in tribute to a grand slam that Marc saw during a Chicago White Sox game when he was a child). A new artform was born. Although there is no such thing as “slam poetry,” poems that do well at slams tend to be those you can “get” after hearing them only once. A poet can certainly challenge the audience with more abstruse work, but they do so at their own risk. Usually in a poetry slam the better scoring poets move on, and the others are told to sit down and become part of what Walt Whitman called “the great audience great poetry requires.” Clike here to learn more about poetry slams than you ever knew existed.
There are three weekly slams in New York City:
Urbana Poetry Slam at the Bowery Poetry Club
(308 Bowery between Houston & Bleecker, at the base of 1st St.)
Every TUESDAY at 7:00 PM Three-time national champions Urbana Poetry Series. Taylor is here every Tuesday that he is not on the road, either reading in the open mic, competing in the slam, emceeing, or scorekeeping. The regular emcee is Shappy (pictured left with a knife through his head) who is also the bartender. It’s a great show and it’s over by 10:00 PM! For more information visit The Urbana Poetry Slam.
The Nuyorican Poets’ Café
(236 East 3rd Street between Avenues B & C)
Every FRIDAY at 10 PM This was the first slam venue in New York and maybe the third or fourth in the nation. It’s packed every Friday with a very diverse audience. It starts late and ends even later, and the bouncer, Julio, is the most cantankerous on the circuit. For more information visit The Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
The LouderARTS Project at Bar 13
(35 East 13th Street at University Place, 2nd floor)
Every MONDAY at 7:30 PM This is Urbana’s sister slam, and there exists a very healthy rivalry between the two venues. They’re more political than Urbana, and their shows tend to run longer, but they always have great poetry. For more information visit The LouderARTS Project.