Beyond Page vs. Stage: Slam Poetry as an Accessible Form

Ever heard the phrase "slam poetry isn't real poetry?"

Come explore that idea for yourself at a presentation given this Friday, April 22nd at 4:30pm at NAU's DuBois ballroom in Flagstaff. Local poet and NORAZ Poets advisory board member Logan Phillips will present slam poetry as a poetry form, as valid as the more well-known forms of sestinas, villanelles or haiku. Following the lecture, there will be a small panel discussion which will include Prescott poet and advisory board member Daniel H. Seaman.

Part of the 9th Annual Conference at the Peaks, presented by the Organization of Graduate Students of English, the presentation follows this year's theme of "The River of Words: Exploring Fluidity and Dynamism in Literature and Language." Hardly anything is as dynamic as slam poetry, a young form that has exploded across the nation over the last 20 years. So come out and explore the ideas surrounding poetry forms.

NORAZ Poets is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which promotes poetry and poetry events in NORthern AriZona. More information:

Presentation Abstract: Since it’s inception in the mid-1980’s, the competitive art of Poetry Slam has only continued to gain popularity, media exposure and momentum. This year, the fifteenth annual National Poetry Slam will be held just four hours from Flagstaff in Albuquerque, NM. This offers a unique opportunity for our thriving literary community to reflect on the influence and discourse of slam poetry here in Northern Arizona.

Our brief presentation, followed by a small panel discussion, will seek to debunk the “stage vs. page” myth by exploring the characteristics of slam poetry not as the opposite of “page poetry,” but rather as another poetry form. Equally as valid of a form as a sestina or sonnet, slam poetry draws on a long tradition of oral expression and is marked by specific characteristics which define it clearly. These characteristics include distinct uses of repetition, length, subject matter, and yes, even meter. Equally informed by hip-hop, popular culture, stand-up comedy, forensics and “traditional” poetry, slam is very visible and accessible, often acting as an entry point into the literary arts for those who may not have been exposed to them otherwise. This initial exposure often leads to further involvement in the literary community, as we will show using examples from our own area.

Far from being mutually exclusive, slam poetry and the more traditional literary arts stand to gain much from each other. Nowhere in poetry are popular culture and our society so clearly reflected, defined and critiqued as within slam. One could liken the young form to a flash flood entering the wider river of words, adding not only new audience and power, but also seeking to define itself and find its place within the flow of the literary arts.