hey I live in a small town & we're getting ready to put a local poetry slam together. I'm looking for info & tips on getting one started, the general rules and any general sage advice on the subject of creating one. I'd appreciate any feedback.
--Have fun. That's the bottom line. Don't let rules or ideas of what it 'should be' get in the way of having a great time.
--Meanwhile, you can visit the Berkeley Poetry Slam's website, and surf around. We have copies of the rules and mechanisms of the slam, even if the site is a bit out of date.
--Some general principles:
-----The emcee is the center of attention and carries the show. They should be well-prepared, have a couple cards with the names of all the poets and any announcements in hand, and a sense of humor.
-----Announce the rules at the beginning of the show and/or hand out a card to EVERYONE (not just the poets!) with the rules printed on them. How much fun would it be to watch a baseball game if you didn't know the rules? Once you announce the rules, then be consistent with everyone. If you are strict, then always be strict, no matter what. If you're casual, then always be casual.
-----Insert occasional moments of silliness.
-----No 'dead air': have a DJ or band or even a CD playing in the background between poets and rounds. Plan in advance so the stage is never empty.
-----Make the performance area look fucking cool. Even two clip-on lights from the hardware store with colored light bulbs can make a huge difference. Put up a black sheet if there is no back-drop. Think about the performance area as a sacred space where art happens.
-----Make sure that the first poet up (the sacrificial or calibration poet) is terrific, even if you have to do it yourself or bribe someone. Kick things off right!
------Tip the bartender/barrista and make sure the staff is happy.
-----ALWAYS be certain your audience got their money/time's worth. Do whatever it takes. People will forgive a bad movie and go see movies again someday. People will forgive a bad rocknroll band. People NEVER forgive bad poetry. So be absolutely certain someone is going to rock the mic. That may mean PAYING a fantastic poet (if only a free beer) to participate in the open slam. That doesn't mean they'll win, but you're buying yourself insurance that there will be something great in the slam.
-----Leave them wanting more.
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