Every 3rd Tuesday of the month we hold open poetry slams. A poetry slam is a competition at which poets perform their own original work, and are then judged on a numeric scale by previously selected members of the audience.

In a standard slam, there are five judges. Before the competition begins, the host will often bring up a sacrificial poet. A sacrificial poet is not competing in the slam, but is scored by the judges in order for them to calibrate their judging.

After each competing poet performs, judges award a score to that poem. Scores generally range between zero and ten. The highest and lowest score are dropped, giving each performance a rating between zero and thirty points.

A single round at a slam consists of performances by all eligible poets. Most slams last multiple rounds, and many involve the elimination of lower-scoring poets in successive rounds. A standard elimination rubric might run 8-4-2, with eight poets in the first round, four in the second, and two in the last. Some slams do not eliminate poets at all.

Additionally, most slams enforce a time limit of three minutes (and a grace period of ten seconds), after which a poet’s score will be docked according to how long the poem exceeded the time limit.

Props, costumes, and music are always forbidden in slams.