How to be a Slam Poet


I was sitting on the library toilet the other day when my gaze was caught by the ‘Stanza poetry festival’ poster. It got me thinking, about poetry and more specifically poetry slam-ing. I’ve attended a couple of Inklight events, and watched some stirring youtube videos so feel I’m well equipped to write this article, nay compendium. To slam, to poem. What is its purpose? How do I write one? How do I become such an elusive mysterious creature, without having a mellifluous American accent? Fear no longer furry friend. This is the manual you’ve been waiting for.

  1. First you must develop some thoughts, but not just any kind of thoughts, deep thoughts. Start off with simple thoughts, then just use a plough or two, and have some kind of an existential crisis over whether your tinder picture tips over from the cute to the slutty zone, and you’re half way there. Perhaps incorporate someone’s rights; women’s/ your mums or recount a childhood story/trauma, such as but not exclusive to that one time you sneeze farted in an exam and were thereafter called ‘Snart’. (We’ve all been there kids)
  1. Once you’ve sorted the topic you must establish the delivery. If you’re not blessed with an American accent; effect one, trust me it makes everything sound a lot less corny. Shout in random PLACES to keep the audience on their toES. Make sure you use your hands a lot- spreading them like a bear clasping a tree- in particularly profound moments. Take long —————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-pauses to increase the audience’s antic——-ipation. When ending the poem you have a multitude of options available to you. You can dramatically stalk towards the back of the stage, go for the more gang* mic drop, or even fully push that mic over (you do you) or my personal favourite, the slow solemn head nod in time to the clapping. This shows you appreciate that they appreciate your genius and that your genius appreciates them.
  1. Last but certainly not least, you must crack the dress code. There are 3 types of poetry slammers, choose wisely. The first type is so laid back he’s virtually horizontal. He’s potentially high, wearing some kind of plaid shirt or a t-shirt saying [insert ironic quote here]. The second type wears all black, smokes and only writes notes on a typewriter. She might read something in French, or perform a heartening version of The Cat in the Hat, suffused with weeping, lamenting over lost innocence and childhood. The final type is the ‘wacky’ one- the more colour, mismatched prints and gap yah clothing, the better.

If you have any desire to see one of these rare beasts for real, or indeed make use of this manual and give it a go yourself, then head along to the StAnza poetry festival this week, with performances from some of the top names on the international poetry scene- Lemn Sissay, Sean O’Brien, Jo bell and Matthew Sweeney to name a few- it’s an event not to be missed.


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