“Words are powerful. Words make a difference. They can create and destroy. They can open doors and close doors. Words can create illusion or magic, love or destruction. … All those things.” - R.M. Engelhardt
Slam poetry is a lot like rap’s cousin as words are fundamental to slam poetry, but the presentation and delivery are also incredibly important and there's less of a focus on music.
When you learn about slam poetry, you might want to copy some other famous slam poets. However, everyone has a path to follow. And at a certain point, you’ll want to branch away from your inspiration.
Here’s how you can become a slam poet.
Listen to Slam Poetry
Like with rap music, it’s important to get started by listening to examples of the art form you want to learn. Slam poetry comes in different shapes and sizes, though and each artist has a unique approach.
Don’t hesitate to listen to a variety of different artists and poets to learn more about their style but also to make sure that you don’t pigeonhole yourself into one style. Remember that you’ll need to learn how to both write and perform slam poetry. You need to keep your ears open for other styles and approaches.
Generally, listen to plenty of different styles to give you a better idea of what you can do.
Analyse Slam Poetry
Just by listening to slam poetry, you’ll start to see a lot of the similarities with rap, especially as a spoken-word art form with rhythmic and impassioned delivery.
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Each slam poet has a unique style and delivery and you can see how each artist performs so pay particular attention to the pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation as a slam poet performs their work.
Perform Slam Poetry
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Choose a poem that you want to interpret and perform.
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You’ll learn more about the intonation, speed, cadence, volume, timbre, etc. Slam poetry is poetry that has to be performed. In poetry slams, you have to take to the stage and read the room.
Slam poetry is often evocative, passionate, and deals with everything from personal experience to global issues. It’s not just the words you recite, but the way you perform them and for many, the latter is the harder part of slam poetry. Once you can remember the words, you need to remember how to perform them as they need to be powerful and emotive.
Of course, you can always get help from a private tutor if you need help writing or performing. From there, you can take to the stage to perform your slam poetry.
Writing Slam Poetry
Slam poetry is creative writing and you can’t just perform other people’s slams.
1: Choose a Theme
It’s difficult to start writing slam poetry. Consider attending slam poetry workshops and practising your new skills.
This starts with a theme and, ideally, one that speaks to you: peace, solidarity, the environment, love, friendship, etc.
It’s not easy to get started with slam poetry, especially since you have to also think of rhymes, phrasing, etc. Writing is a whole process, especially with slam poetry.
Start by thinking about your theme and getting some thoughts written down. You might just want to take some notes on your phone while you’re on the bus. Ideas will come to you so make sure you’re able to write them down. You might just need a few keywords to get started.
It’s worthwhile just writing your thoughts and ideas as they pop into your head.
You can flesh out these ideas as you go back to them. Develop and refine the words you chose. You can turn them into rhymes, metaphors, or even wordplay.
Get into the habit and you’ll soon be able to write without thinking. Try regularly sitting down to write for ten minutes. The goal is to get it all on paper.
From there, a theme might be apparent. You might end up binning a lot of your ideas, but there may be some parts you can use in there. It’ll be tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it.
2: Write Your Text
Once you’ve got the ideas down, you need to turn them into poetry. You’ll want to think about structure, rhymes, and the words you use.
You’ll also need to keep the overriding theme in mind and the message you’re trying to get across. You also need to want to write. Bit by bit, you’ll edit your drafts into a refined final piece. It’s a good idea to read it aloud.
Make sure you’re ready to trim unnecessary words and parts. This is particularly true of parts that ruin the flow.
3: Enrich Your Text
Once you’ve put your text together, you’ll want to edit the text. You need to make it unforgettable.
Avoid repeating the same rhymes over and over. You don’t want your rhymes to be redundant. Try to vary and enrich your text.
Use repetition for effect but don’t overdo it. In some cases, you might want to include a hook or message that repeats. However, the text also has to progress. You want to take the listener on a journey.
Similarly, vary your vocabulary to avoid repeating the same words again and again. Of course, stylistic repetition can be a powerful tool, too.
Slam poetry is still poetry so you can use imagery, similes, metaphors, etc.
It might be worthwhile using a thesaurus and rhyming dictionary when enriching your poetry. You can also get these as apps for your phone rather than carrying around heavy and unwieldy books.
4: Participate in Poetry Slams
To learn how to slam, you’ve got to do it in front of an audience. This is a good way to test out your slam poetry as well as your performance.
The performance is a fundamental part of slam poetry. Writing workshops can help you write excellent slam poetry, but you need to perform it before a crowd to see if it works.
The rest is up to you! Feel free to show off your work in the comments!
You can also get help with writing rap lyrics, rapping, and slam poetry from private tutors on Superprof! There are different types of tutoring available and since each comes with pros and cons in terms of the teaching and the cost, you'll want to think carefully about what's right for you and your budget.
Face-to-face tutorials are often the most cost-effective, but they also tend to be the most expensive per hour. This is because you're paying for a tutor to tailor the sessions to you, your level, and what you want to learn. Similarly, a lot of tutors will travel to their students and have more expenses to deal with than those offering online or group tutorials.
Online tutorials are a good option if you live rurally or can't find any suitable tutors in your local area. These tutors can still offer tailored sessions but can charge less as they don't have to travel to their students and can schedule more sessions each week. As long as you have a decent internet connection, webcam, and microphone, you can enjoy private online tutoring from tutors all over the world.
Group tutoring is an excellent option if you're on a tight budget. While you won't get as much one-on-one tuition from your tutor, you usually end up paying less as the cost of the tutor's time and expertise is split amongst all the students in attendance. If you and some friends, family members, or colleagues, are interested in learning more about music, rap, or slam poetry, group tutoring could be a fun and rewarding experience.
Before you start contacting tutors, it's a really good idea to think carefully about the type of tutoring that you're after and what you're looking for in a tutor. Make a list of your requirements and keep them in mind as you search for tutors on Superprof. Once you have a few tutors in mind that meet your requirements, you can start getting in touch with them and discussing how and what you'd like to learn.
Remember that many of the tutors on the Superprof website offer the first lesson for free. Use these free sessions to try out a few different tutors before deciding on which one would be right for you. Remember to keep your requirements in mind when chatting with potential tutors and remember that since you're probably going to be spending a decent amount of time with them, it's important that you get on well with them.
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