Thoughts from an Ex-Poetry Slammer

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It has been years since I last participated in a poetry slam. I last participated in a slam when I was 18, and I am now 22 and have thought of coming back into the slam scene. I am a bit iffy of the idea of course. Slam poetry can be really competitive. It’s really easy to feel like you’re a terrible writer in slam poetry. With the numbers, the other competitors involved, it gets pretty intense. Too intense for my liking of course. I tend to forget the rule that I should only compare my own writing to my own writing of course. In slam this does not only apply to the writing but also the performance.

Since I have not written slam poetry in years, I feel a bit off. I have only written poems for my own personal growth. I have not thought of writing the same way as when I write a slam piece. In slam poetry you think of what what’s going to hit. What’s going to get the audience to vibe with you. Sometimes you end up thinking about that more than what you actually want to write about or are feeling. Instead many competitors end up thinking about the competitive aspect more than anything else.

There’s these unconventional poems that people say poets should not perform at slams. Love poems being the number one type of poems that should not be performed or taken to a poetry slam. Unless you are of course able to twist it up and make it unique. But typically people will not take you seriously if you perform a love poem although love poems seem to be a popular avenue that gets people into poetry in the first place.

There’s also this understanding that apparently slam poems only consist of “sad” or “angry” poems. Only stories that are related to trauma or make us feel down seem to be the common thread that goes on in slam poetry. Although it does make some people connect with the poet better, there is the question of the exploitation of trauma and emotions. Questions of what is genuine and whether  I don’t necessarily believe that all poetry should be sad though. Of course each person is entitled to their feelings and experiences, but we do not have to write only when we’re sad or force ourselves to feel such a way just to write a slam poem.

Although I love poetry slams and enjoy what people bring, I also believe in being critical about it. Thinking about what’s genuine or not. I believe that as writers we need to check ourselves when we feel ourselves deviate from our own writing and purposes.

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