April is National Poetry Month, and for many, that means honoring the old masters: Byron, Keats, Donne, Eliot. We’re so used to associating poetry with the verbose and challenging poets of yore that we forget about how poetry continues to exist in our lives today. One of the ways that poetry has made its presence felt in the current moment is in a dynamic, loud, and performative incarnation: yes, we’re talking about slam.
Slam poetry, a cousin to hip-hop and not quite synonymous with spoken word, has its roots in mid-20th century poets like Amiri Baraka and Allen Ginsberg, both of whom did many readings of their work and who based much of their poetry on musical rhythms. Poetry slams came several decades later, and featured the performance of poetry in a competitive setting for the first time.
With this in mind, for Figment’s poetry challenge we’re asking you, our inspired and talented writers, to try something out that you may have never before attempted: we want to hear you perform poetry.
The poem you choose to perform could be written by you or by another poet — there’s no limit to the length or style. As with all of our submissions, we ask you to be cautious about choosing a piece with an excessive amount of profanity. Other than that, the artistic choices are all up to you. You might want to think about what makes a poem heartfelt, powerful, or thrilling, and how to convey those feelings verbally.
1) Film yourself performing a poem, or record an .mp3 file of yourself reading a poem (we like videos, though we understand not everyone will have the equipment to put one together). Once you upload the video to Youtube or Vimeo, comment on this post with the link to your performance. If you choose to record a sound file instead, upload it in an email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you record a video, you do not need to email it to us as long as you link to the performance in your comment.
2) We will be giving away Figment tote bags to 5 randomly-selected participants. Figment editors will additionally review all the entries and select a performance that we found the most powerful or engaging. The winner will receive a tote bag and a copy of any poetry book of their choosing.
3) Participants will have until Monday, May 9th at 12AM EST to submit their performances. We’re encouraging Figmenters to post their videos on this blog post to open up discussion in the community — slam poetry is all about performing in front of your peers, after all.
We’re so very excited to see what you have in store! If you’re looking for slam inspiration, check out the videos below, both of poets performing in the Def Poetry Jam:
Love – Beau Sia
We Spent the 4th of July in Bed – Suheir Hammad
Best of luck!