Enter the Slam Poetry Challenge!

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.

To submit:

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 poetrycontest@figment.com. 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!

38 thoughts on “Enter the Slam Poetry Challenge!

  1. im thinking of entering with a poem that would be a spinoff of one I have posted already. Would that be ok?

  2. so I’m going to take the two previous comments as we can use our own poetry from figment, correct? And what is a spinoff? sorry, I’m a little slow today…..

    • Hi Aldolfa

      Yes, you can use your own poetry. A spinoff is an adaptation of an earlier work, with different elements.

  3. Does it have to be Youtube? Because I was thinking of posting my poetry slam on FB since they allow you to post videos too.

  4. I’ve done slam poetry with two voices, ie. one person says a line then the other says the next. Can we do that, or does it have to be only us?

    • Hi Rhea

      As long as you are in the video or audio clip, it’s okay. Just make sure to make clear which voice is yours.

  5. can we write like a parody to a song (that would count as a poem) and perform it with a musical instrument? 😀

    or no musical instruments whatsoever.. :

    • Hey-
      After some debate, it’s been boiled down to this: The challenge is for spoken word. So if you recited your parody lyrics as spoken word, that’s fine. You shouldn’t enter a singing performance, though. Let me know if you have any other questions: esteele@figment.com

  6. ok thank you so much. It was hard making a video for the first time. So I’m just going to stick to the sound file.

  7. Are we allowed to use poems entered in previous Figment contests or even contests on other sites? Also, I know you said there’s no length limit, but do you have a preferred length range?


    • Hi Becky

      Yes – you can use poetry from previous contests. Also, there’s no preferred length range, but use your judgment on what feels too long. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at Maria@Figment.com.

    • Hi Charlotte

      Yes, you can recite someone else’s poem, but do include the title of the work and the original author.

  8. oh and how do you make a slam poetry contest and not reference Taylor Mali?
    For those of you who don’t know taylor is one of the only poets making a living as NOTHING BUT A POET! he used to be a teacher but he is a comedic and emotional genius and SLAM is his specialty.

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