Poetry Slams: Not For the Faint of Heart

Simply put, a poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. Established as a means to heighten public interest in poetry readings, slam has evolved into an international art form emphasizing audience involvement and poetic excellence.

Slams attract audiences not only in urban centers like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, but also in areas as distant as Singapore or as remote as Fargo, North Dakota. They are held in bars, bookstores, coffeehouses, universities, street corners, and theaters.

If poetry is to become a part of the general reader’s life, it must do so in variety and abundance, on both the page and the stage and all the media in between.

Poetry slams are not for the faint of heart. If you go to a slam and stick around long enough, you’ll probably hear a poem you like. Or a poem you loath. Or a poem that changes your mind or your underwear. You decide. With that said, here is a powerful example of what you’re more than likely to find should you ever decide to attend a slam.

Neil Hilborn is a slam poet with OCD. His love poem “OCD” was recorded (by Button Poetry) at an event in Rustbelt earlier this year. Hillborn says the tics “are an intentional performance, but they are also my actual tics. Sometimes in performance they become real.” At the line “I leave the door unlocked,” brace yourselves, because your heart is going to drop through your stomach.


Paige Edenfield, Poetry Editor
Decades Review


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