Why ‘Slam Poetry’ Is Not a Genre

Also, I came across this article written by Chris Gilpin so y’all should definitely check that out as well.

Katie Ailes

My last post responded to the way media sources were misconstruing Sarah Palin’s endorsement speech for Donald Trump as “slam poetry.” I gave several reasons why I consider that use of that term to be inaccurate and rather rude, including that the use of ‘slam poetry’ as shorthand for rambling, incoherent utterances misrepresents a field of poetry generally characterised by tight performances and accessibility. One of the primary reasons I was frustrated with the way this term was used, though, is that ‘slam poetry’ is not a valid term, because it cannot accurate describe an artistic genre. In this post I argue that ‘slam poetry’ as a genre in and of itself does not exist, and suggest some other terminology which more accurately reflects the field of contemporary performance poetry. More after the jump!

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Forward Slash In a Poem

The forward slash is used in various ways in the English language. For instance, it can be used for two small words in an informal sentence such. Dictionaries use the slash to show pronunciation for a word. It can even be used for songs, plays, and poetry for line breaks. Speaking of which, line breaks play an important role in a poem because they indicate a pause and an emphasis on how the poem should be read.

“In my newer poems, I have been using forward slashes a lot, instead of commas. I made this choice because I enjoy how forward slashes look visually and because they can function as new punctuation for me. They do not only divide text according to breath or idea but also poetic impulse. My newer works are filled with forward slashes that continuously flip and chop the image or tone of a poem. The forward slashes serve to create a sense of speed or chaos. For me, they resemble the blast beats made by drummers in punk bands. The forward slashes look like drum sticks, charging energy throughout the poem. The punctuation in my poems mimic the energy of punk shit.”
Christopher Soto, I Have Punk, Langston Had Blues, Lorca Had Gypsy Ballads

The only difference is that when you’re using a slash in the poem, you are putting a written piece together as if it was in a sentence format. Does that mean you shouldn’t use punctuation at all? No. It just means you don’t have to use as much (or any at all) depending what type of poem you’re writing. I just thought that would serve as a reminder to other poets who might not know.

To’Wednesday Sibley