Slam poetry: A whole other side of verse

Have you snapped your fingers and yelled “Spit, poet!”

Have you ventured out to a glowing coffee shop late at night, huddled over a steaming mug as an impassioned poet plays with words?

Have you snapped your fingers and yelled “Spit, poet!” at the makeshift stage? Do you know what slam poetry is?

“This is for the factory farmed chicken looking at where the sky used to be. Flip the bird. Flip everything around you so the only sound you can hear anymore is the beating of wings all around you, trying to show you that you are so much greater that you appear,” Shayne avec i grec spoke into the microphone.

His voice gained momentum as his hands shaped the words he released into the Carihi multi purpose room. avec i grec is part of Raising Voices, a slam poetry group based in Victoria. Pam Stewart, Johnny MacRae and Jeremy Loveday also performed.

I spoke to Kai Harvey, a Carihi student about how the poetry slam affected her.

“It was really inspirational. It’s a whole other side of poetry,” she said.

Earlier in the day Stewart and MacRae taught a workshop as part of Carihi’s creative writing program. They wove in pieces of history: in 1985 the public began to lose interest in poetry, finding parlor recitations dull. Marc Smith, a poet and construction worker saw this and began to host poetry competitions in which random members of the audience were selected as judges. The only criteria was that the performance was entertaining. These events became unruly, often involving animals, elaborate costumes, and carelessly written poems. Smith decided to develop a set of rules which are still, used today: Each poem must be of the poet’s own construction. Each poet gets three minutes (plus a 10-second grace period) to read one poem. If the poet goes over time, points will be deducted from the total score. The poet may not use props, costumes or musical instruments;

Of the scores the poet received from the five judges, the high and low scores are dropped and the middle three are added together, giving the poet a total score of 0-30.

“Everyone is encouraged to interact – the performer, the judges and the audience,” MacRae said of slams.  “The poets carry a physical energy with them, they really embody their words.”

The slam sparked an interest in Carihi students, who are in the process of setting up a slam poetry group. Some goals are performing at the teen open mic nights at Serious Coffee and competing in youth competitions.

For more information on Raising Voices and the Victoria Poetry Project go to