Reading Connection: Slam Poetry and Everything Else

Header Video. Button Poetry. “Melissa Lozada-Oliva – “Like Totally Whatever” (NPS 2015)”. Online Video Clip. YouTube. August 19, 2015. Web. February 15, 2016.

I was super excited to see that I was assigned the section, “Math, the “Poetry Slam,” and Mathemagicians: Tracing Trajectories of Practice and Person“. Although, sadly, it contained no actual poetry slam. There’s a video on the page I couldn’t figure out how to load, even using three different web browsers. Even if I could have gotten it to load, this was not a real slam. This was a skit from an improvisational comedy show and not a slam. This distinction is important to me, not just as a poet.

Slam poetry is a particular kind of writing meant to be original material performed in public, from memory, and judged in a competition. In this case, the poet is not just a writer, but fulfills a great deal of roles in order to bring a slam poem to the stage. Slam poetry combines stage presence, memorization, expression, delivery, performance, verbal skills, linguistic skills, and many other talents to give voice to a particular kind of poetry. A person who is a wonderful writer would not automatically make a great slam poet. But a person who speaks well but cannot write their own work, also cannot be a slam poet.

Button Poetry. “Anthony McPherson – “All Lives Matter: 1800s Edition””. Online Video Clip. YouTube. October 12, 2015. Web. February 15, 2016.

Like the article mentions, it is a combination of knowledge, factors, and abilities which make slam poetry possible as well as Brian’s various activities. Slam poetry sets up a unique rhetorical situation where proficiencies must combine in several different ways in order to score points with judges. Judges need to be able to evaluate all of these talents and abilities, and quickly, in order to fairly rank contestants and award honors.

Meanwhile, it could be argued that no one does anything without bringing the whole of their experience into the equation. Their experience might not be directly applicable to the situation at hand, but they have that knowledge, none the less. So advanced math can be used in video games and improv comedy skits. Social commentary can be used in slam poetry. But regardless of what people do in society, they are bringing everything they know and have experienced with them.

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