Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? At first, we thought it was National Poultry Month. We were going to do a Wonder about chickens dancing — a real “fowl ball” — but then a friend told us we needed to do a Wonder about POETRY, not POULTRY.
So here it is! Do you like to read poetry? When many kids hear the word “poetry,” they think of stuffy old poems that are hard to read and understand.
If you think you don’t like poetry, think about these questions. Do you like music? What about the catchy rhymes of hip-hop and rap, in particular? Do you sometimes hear the lyrics of a song and they speak to you in a way that makes you want to remember them forever? Many songs are simply heartfelt poems set to music.
And if you think poetry is an “old” art form that has no relevance today, think again! People who think poetry isn’t a “cutting edge” art form have never been to a poetry slam.
A poetry slam is a competition in which individuals or teams perform their own personal poetry before an audience, which judges the poems and the artists’ performances. Poetry slams are often held on college campuses or at coffee houses.
The poetry slam was the invention of construction worker and poet Marc Smith. In 1984, he began holding poetry readings at a Chicago jazz club in an effort to revive the art of performing poetry live.
Eventually, his readings turned into a regular competition on Sunday nights called the Uptown Poetry Slam. In addition to picking audience members to judge the competition, Smith also offered cash prizes for the winners. The Uptown Poetry Slam still takes place every Sunday night.
Although the rules of poetry slams can vary from location to location, the basic rules are similar across competitions: poets have three minutes to perform an original poem they have written.
They may not use props, costumes or musical instruments. Five judges give scores from 0-10. The high and the low scores are thrown out, and the middle three scores are added together to give poets a possible score range of 0-30.
At a poetry slam, the audience is encouraged to participate by reacting to all aspects of the show. This might include cheering for their favorite poets, booing judges who give low scores and laughing along with the host’s jokes.
Depending upon what type of poetry slam you attend, you never know what type of poetry you’ll hear. A typical poetry slam might include all sorts of different types of poetry, including love poems, critical social commentary, hilarious comic poems and moving personal confessions.