Monday, January 25, 2010

1 ) Poems can be on any subject and in any style.

2 ) Each poet must perform work that s/he has created.

3 ) No props. Prop: an object or article of clothing introduced into a performance with the effect of enhancing, illustrating, underscoring, or otherwise augmenting the words of the poem. Generally, poets are allowed to use their given environment and the accoutrements it offers - microphones, mic stands, the stage itself, chairs on stage, a table or bar top, the aisle - as long as these accoutrements are available to other competitors as well. The rule concerning props is not intended to squelch the spontaneity, unpredictability, or on-the-fly choreography that people love about the slam; its intent is to keep the focus on the words rather than objects.

4 ) No musical instruments or pre-recorded music.

5 ) No costumes.

6 ) Sampling: It is acceptable for a poet to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise "signify" on the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called "sampling" in his own work. If he is only riffing off another's words, he should expect only healthy controversy; if on the other hand, he is ripping off their words, he should expect scornful contumely.

7 ) The Three-Minute Rule: No performance should last longer than three minutes. The time begins when the performance begins, which may well be before the first utterance is made. A poet is certainly allowed several full seconds to adjust the microphone and get settled & ready, but as soon as s/he makes a connection with the audience ("Hey look, she's been standing there for 10 seconds and hasn't even moved"), the timekeeper can start the clock. The poet does not have an unlimited amount of "mime time." Poets with ambiguous beginnings & endings to their performances should seek out the timekeeper at each venue to settle on a starting & ending time. After three minutes, there is a 10-second grace period (up to and including 3:10.00). Starting at 3:10.01, a penalty is automatically deducted from each poet's overall score according to the following schedule:

3:10 and under no penalty

3:10.01 - 3:20 -0.5

3:20.01 - 3:30 -1.0

3:30.01 - 3:40 -1.5

3:40.01 - 3:50 -2.0

and so on [-0.5 for every 10 seconds over 3:10]

The announcement of the time penalty will be made by the emcee or scorekeeper after all the judges have reported their scores. The judges should not even be told that a poet went overtime until it is too late for them to adjust their scores.

Maximum Time Limit: After four minutes, only the emcee may stop a poet from continuing to perform.

8 ) Judging: All efforts shall be made to select five judges who will be fair. Once chosen, the judges will have a private, verbal crash course by the emcee or house manager on the do's and don'ts of poetry slam judging (where they can ask questions).

9 ) Scoring: The judges will give each poem a score from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest or "perfect" score. They will be encouraged to use one decimal place in order to preclude the likelihood of a tie. Each poem will get five scores. The high and the low scores will be dropped and the remaining three scores will be added together.

10 ) Emcees: The emcee will announce to the audience each poet's name. She will also require that all judges hold their scores up at the same time and that no judge changes his score after it is up. She is expected to move the show along quickly and keep the audience engaged and interested in the competition. Since she must be completely impartial, any witty banter directed at individual poets, poems, teams, or scores is inappropriate. Even genuine enthusiasm has to be carefully directed. The safest thing to do is encourage the audience to express their own opinions.

11 ) Sacrificial Poet: Because no poet wants to go first in the slam, and because some judges, score keepers and time keepers need practice, each slam begins with a "sacrificial poet". This poet performs a piece and is scored as if they were competing in the slam.

12 ) Team Pieces: Any group of individuals who wish to do group pieces in the regular season or the summer season may do so. However, said group piece will receive a two point deduction from the poem’s total score and said group piece will not be used towards qualifying for finals at the end of the season.

Additionally, any individuals involved in a group piece is unable to compete in any other piece (be it group pieces or solo work) for that evening. Should the team performing said group piece make it to the 2nd round they would have to involve all the same group members in their 2nd round piece and would take the two point penalty in that round as well.

How the Victoria Slam Team is Chosen

If you are interested in qualifying for the Poetry Slam Finals you must place in the overall top 12 poets. The five top scoring poets at the finals night will become the Victoria Slam Team.


  1. Thanks for posting the rules.

    One question though, how does one go about qualifying for finals? I think those rules should be posted as well.