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The woman stands on stage, microphone in hand, as she transfixes her audience using nothing but her voice. Who is she? Not a pop star or a motivational speaker; she’s a slam poet … and she’s giving a slam dunk performance.
Thinking about putting your own sharp wit and personal perspective into good use onstage? Want to break into the slam poetry movement but don’t know where to start? ENTITY is here to give you our top five tips for dominating the slam poetry scene.
Before you walk onto the stage, know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Slam poetry, by definition, is a competition in which poets perform original pieces without the help of props, music and costumes. Basically, slam poetry is showing how slammin’ you are with only your voice and personality. Competition judges can be anyone – even non-poets – and they rank competitors by how much they enjoyed each performance.
So who can get involved? Anyone! Whether you’re a full-time writer or a fashion designer with surplus creativity and time to use, slam poetry is for you.
READ MORE: 12 Slam Poems for the Soul
If you’re the kind of woman who loves thinking outside of the box, slam poetry is just the hobby you’ve been looking for. Remember high school English class when you had to write haikus with strict rules for structure and subject? Ditch those lessons and embrace your inner creative goddess. Even if you’re a great performer, your piece must be original.
Just think of listening to the radio when you’re driving to work. If you hear five love songs with similar content, would you stay on that channel? Or would you try to find newer and more exciting songs? The same theory applies to slam poetry. Even if you’re talking about a common topic like relationships, experiment with your wording, rhythm and structure to make your piece unique.
The great thing about slam poetry is that you can write abut anything your heart desires. Maybe you’re reeling from a breakup or maybe you’re troubled by the political fragmentation that emerged in America’s recent election. Take out a pen and paper and channel your sadness or anger into art.
Still searching for inspiration? Follow the advice of poet Kyle Guante Tran Myhre and explore politically relevant poetry slam subjects like:
As you can see, slam poetry is actually a creative way for women to become politically active. If you feel like your voice is silenced in regular conversations, raise awareness through poetry instead.
So you’ve figured out what you want to write out and have hopefully worked out a rough draft. Once you have the bones of your poem, it’s time to play dress up and experiment with rhythm, rhyme and voice.
Compared to more traditional poetry, you don’t have to follow an exact rhyme scheme. Instead, let your epic content drive the rhyme. Think about what mood you want to set. Is your poem inspiring? Sad? Happy? Depending on how you want the audience to feel, you’ll probably want to read your poem a little differently.
Just as musicians adapt their voices to their genres (country twang, anyone?), you should do the same with poetry. Digital Poet suggests asking yourself questions like: Do you want to perform free-form like a rapper? Or like an actor speaking a monologue? Maybe someone reading a written letter? The choices you make in terms of voice will determine the clarity of your piece’s message.
Decided on a slam poem subject? Check. Added a few creative twists? Check. Determined how you want to read it? Check. Now you just have to follow in countless artists’ inspiring footsteps and practice.
You should become comfortable performing in front of a crowd. In addition, practice to ensure that your poem falls within your competition’s time limit. Most importantly, though, have fun! Embrace slam poetry as a way to express yourself and find a community of similarly-minded men and women.
You may never become a pop star or one of the most popular motivational speakers in the world, but with some help from these tips, an inspiring slam poetry performance is well within reach.