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The "spoken word" forum and the poetry slam have become popular enough to receive the focus of media attention including major motion pictures and MTV. A poetry slam is a cross between a poetry reading and a pugilist competition with only a metaphorical slugfest. Poets get on stage and read a poem while judges chosen randomly from the audience score the poems. The competition actually has its roots in ancient Greek and Roman times.
According to the book "Poetry Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry" by Gary Max Glazner (Maniac D Press, 2000), the poetry slam began in
Terms To Know
Allegory. A particular image represents a specific assigned concept or abstraction.
Allusion. One of the ways in which poetry compresses language is through allusion, reference to other literary works or outside knowledge the reader is expected to know or at least recognize. A reference to something historical, mythological, or literary in a poem without explaining it.
Ars Poetica. A poem praising poetry or written about poetry, or even about the poem a poet is writing at the moment.
Ballad. The ballad form consists of quatrains with four beats in lines one and three, and three beats in lines two and four; content matter usually consists of love, adventure, and talks of fatal relationships.
Canzone. The canzone uses repeating end words. The form consists of five 12-line stanzas and a six-line envoi. There are variations to how the end words repeat in this form. A polyphonic song evolving from this form of poetry and resembling the madrigal in style.
Epic Poem. A long narrative poem that traditionally contains a heroic figure and narrates a historical event of some other tale of heroism, conquest, and battle, usually containing elements of myth.
Ghazal. A formal poem consisting of rhymed or unrhymed couplets that are not necessarily thematically connected; the poet's name appears in the final couplet.
Haiku. A three-line Japanese form traditionally written in English with the syllable count of 5-7-5; subject matter is primarily about the natural world.
Iambic Pentameter. The most widely used metrical form in the English language; a line of poetry containing 5 iambs.
Imagery. Descriptions in a poem that make the reader conjure mental images.
Limerick. A traditional form to light verse consisting of 5 lines rhyming aabba; content is usually humorous and bawdy.
Metaphor. A figure of speech in which two (or more) dissimilar things are being compared. Comes from a Greek word meaning to "transfer" or to "bear or convey change." (the prefix "meta-" deals with change, as in Sylvia Plath's "The air is a mill of hooks" (from her poem "Mystic").
Meter. Any ordering and unifying element in poetry that mimics and heightens the rhythms of our speech and the rhythms of the natural world around us; meter involves the stresses of words and how those words are placed next to one another to create a metrical pattern (you will hear the word stress referred to as beat or accent as well -- these are interchangeable terms).
Metonymy. A type of metaphor that uses a closely associated object as a substitute for the original object, as in, "City Hall spoke today with civic leaders," meaning that the mayor spoke with the civic leaders.
Nonsense Verse. Poems that don't necessarily make sense, but do use poetic traditions such as stanza forms, rhyme, and so on.
Prose Poem. A hybrid of a poem and a short-short story. A prose work that has poetic characteristics such as vivid imagery and concentrated expression.
Renga. A Japanese form that originated as a party game in which groups of poets contributed to a single poem, typically consisting of at least 100 lines written by three poets in about three hours; the renga is an imagistic form and is the parent of the haiku, which were considered "warm up" poems for the renga. Each stanza relates to the one before it, but not to the one before that.
Reversed Sonnet. A sonnet that uses one of the traditional rhyme schemes backward.
Rhyme Scheme. The arrangement of rhymes in a poem or stanza.
Scansion. The method that poets use to measure metrical patterns.
Shakespearian Sonnet. Also called the Elizabethan Sonnet or the English Sonnet, it is the most common sonnet, and is the type that Shakespeare used (hence the name). The main distinction between this type of sonnet and its counterparts is its rhyme scheme: ababcdcdefefgg.
Simile. A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as, as in "How like the winter hath my absence been" or "So are you to my thoughts as food to life" (Shakespeare). In this, A is similar to B, as in Elizabeth Bishop's "The turtles lumbered by, high-domed, hissing like tea kettles" (from Crusoe in England). It points out a likeness between different things.
Sonnet. A poem normally consisting of fourteen lines in any of several fixed verse and rhyme schemes, typically in rhymed iambic pentameter; sonnets generally express a single theme or idea.
Symbol. Any image that resonates with meaning and recurs throughout a poem. A thing in action in a poem that has meaning beyond itself.
Tanka. A Japanese form consisting of five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, respectively. Traditional topics include nature, love, travel, the seasons, and lamentation. Like haiku, this form can be varied to be longer or shorter, and you can tinker with the syllable count.
earnest around 1986 in Chicago. In the next few years, poetry slams sprung up in larger cities around the country and, in 1990, Glazner produced the first-ever
National Slam in San Francisco. National Slams have been produced every year since.
Spoken word is a form of poetry that's written to be read aloud. Because it is meant for an audience of listeners, spoken-word poems often contain a predominance of musical elements (repetition, rhyme, alliteration, etc.) and may even call for foot stomping, hand clapping, singing, or other physical elements that add emphasis to the poem.
Spoken-word poems tend not to work as well on the page as they do read aloud, though that is not necessarily the case. The spoken-word poet is concerned largely with the oral quality of the poem and how the audience will receive it.
Subject matter for spoken-word poems tend to be highly personal or political, often using material that will titillate the audience. The poems are largely narrative, telling a story that the audience (and the judges) will have some kind of reaction to.
The "slam open" is for anyone who wants to participate and try for a chance to move up to the invitational slam (made up of the winners of the slam open), the participants of which may move up to the semifinals, the finals, the Grand Slam, and ultimately, the National Slam. At the slam open, poets read one poem in round one that they hope will get them into round two. Poets who don't make it into round two have to come back the following week if they want another chance.
Before the slam begins, the MC will choose judges at random from the audience. These judges need not be versed in poetry; they just have to be willing to judge, which can become a tense experience if you judge an audience favorite poet or poem too low. Judging is from 0 to 10 (low --> high), and uses decimal points so that there is less of a chance of a tie.
Poems are judged on content and performance, but mainly on performance usually. Often there is a poet who is notable at the slam. One who is is loved by the audience and who tends to win often. Poets who read first are at a disadvantage; the crowd is not warmed up yet (sometimes not tipsy enough, in some cases) and tends to score the first few slammers lower than they would have later in the evening. If you can help it, jockey for a reading position as late in the slam as possible, when the scores tend to be higher. While this might sound like serious stuff, the slam is actually fun. People are hyped up to hear great poems, and there is a lot of laughter, general silliness, heckling, and the occasional very powerful poem. Even if you don't have the courage to participate, try to attend a slam.
If you can't find a reading series, open mic, or slam near you, or you feel that your community could use another poetry venue, consider starting one yourself. You can approach coffee shops, bars and bookstores for the space, most of which will be agreeable to provide the space for, if you can deliver new customers for them. If you start your own series you can invite published poets to read, and have your open mic after the reading, that way you will have a built-in audience for the open mic.
Lyric poetry is a type of poetry that has its roots in song and music, and is characterized today by the short, personal, highly imagistic and sensory poem. It is named for the lyre (also lyra), a small stringed instrument of the harp family, used by the ancient Greeks to accompany singing and recitation. As an experiment, pen a short, perhaps 20-line poem, of a personal nature -- try to render an event that happened to you today into verse. Make it short, imagistic, and try to use as many of the senses as you can.
Lyric poems come in all shapes and sizes but share one common trait -- they are musical. It does not tell a story as narrative poetry does, describing events or action in the external world, but focuses intensely on a subject and tries to evoke emotions within the listener. Instead of using notes, as in music, the lyric poet relies on words and poetic devices -- metaphor, simile, cadence, meter, rhyme, voice, etc. The lyric poet's job is two fold: to investigate and/or re-create moments, objects, living things, concepts or experiences and to expound on them musically, using poetic devices to reveal their true essence.
Not only can lyric poetry be broken into typical topics -- such as moment, object, living thing, concept or experience -- but also into modes of expression, including: investigate the meaning of a concept; investigate the essence of an image or object; re-create and alter a personal or public experience to understand it; re-create a talent or investigate an encounter so others may partake in it; re-create an experience that did not, cannot, or has yet to happen.
Performance poetry is meant to be performed in front of a live audience (as opposed to a recording or radio broadcast). Performance poets may not care as much about how their poem looks on the page as how it sounds when they read it, though this is not always the case. Performance poets may spend time practicing reading their poems and place their emphasis on their performance. Poetry's roots are in performance and it is often forgotten that poetry originated as an oral and aural art.
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The dramatic monologue, or dramatic lyric, is kind of a cross between the persona poem and the epistle poem. The dramatic monologue is written in the voice of one speaker, usually telling a story of some kind, and usually a persona. The assumption with this kind of poem is that the speaker is alone, speaking alone, usually aloud. The dramatic is used in dramatic verse.
Even though you write your own poems, you do not necessarily have to be the speaker. Assuming another voice, playing a role, or putting on a mask or other identity change, are alternative creative strategies. A "method acting" approach can be taken while penning the poems in which you create and assume another character and talk as he or she would. If you feel unable to escape your inner self, and too limited by personal experiences, try writing a dramatic monologue.
The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry
The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach
Poet's Market: 1,800+ Places to Publish Your Poetry
Write Tight: How to Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused and Concise
|The Art and Craft of Poetry
by Michael J. Bugeja, PH.D.
339 pages; (July 2001)
Writer's Digest Books; ISBN: 1582971013
|Poet's Guide: How to Publish and Perform Your Work
by Michael J. Bugeja, PH.D.
152 pages; (September 1995)
Story Line Press; ISBN: 1885266006
How to Publish Your Poetry: A Complete Guide to Finding the Right Publishers for Your Work
|Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out
by Ralph Fletcher
160 pages; (March 2002)
HarperTrophy; ISBN 0380797038
|Sleeping on the Wing: An Anthology of Modern Poetry with Essays on Reading and Writing
by Kenneth Koch; Kate Farrell
336 pages; (February 1982)
Vintage Books USA; ISBN: 0394743644
|In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop
by Steve Kowit; Dorianne Laux
288 pages; (June 2003)
Tilbury House Publishers; ISBN: 0884481492
||The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems
by Frances Mayes
512 pages; (November 2001)
Harvest/HBJ Book; ISBN: 0156007622
by Jodene Smith
144 pages; (March 2002)
Teacher Created Resources; ISBN: 0743932730
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In the Victorian Age, Robert Browning pioneered the form, modeling his work on the soliloquies of Elizabethan drama. Rather than present a whole play he chose to highlight the chief dramatic moment and to confine himself to the voice of a single character in monologues like "My Las Duchess," "Andrea del Sarto," "Fra Lippo Lippi," and "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister." Even the titles reveal how far Browning delved into history and the arts to create his monologues, speaking from a point of view of an Italian duke, or a Renaissance painter, or an evil monk. One thing a monologue requires is that you know something beyond the borders of your own life experience, or can imagine it fully. A character in a play who delivers a soliloquy both addresses the audience (as in an aside) and talks to himself. We hear him, in effect, thinking aloud. The speaker of a dramatic monologue can do those things as well, but often he or she addresses a particular person, either another character we must imagine listening, or the recipient of a letter. The voice assumed by the poet is sometimes called a persona, the Greek word for "mask" (since the actors in Greek plays wore stylized masks during performances). You might think of this persona as a disguise that allows you to delve into subjects you could not explore otherwise, to free yourself to deal with otherwise unencountered matters and experiences.
The persona poem is one that enables the writer to take on another identity, or to write as someone or something else. If you write in your own identity (with your own experience, opinions and values) often enough you can notice that your poems have a similar sound, a similar voice. The persona poem forces you to write in another voice, to experiment with the tone and diction.
Academy of American Poets
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