Maybe You Should Worry About Your Poems: A Freewrite on Slam & Strategy

So I went to a slam last night. It was the first one I’d been to in forever. I witnessed legends and newbies butt heads for over three hours and at the end I had a conversation with a fairly new poet to the slam arena who was telling me about his strategy after doing very well in the slam. Interestingly enough every strategy that every poet came into the room with failed last night. I know this because the person who won told me they didn’t think they could win going in the slot they were in and well, everyone else lost. So this is a free write on my thoughts on the poisonousness of too much strategy. This is nothing to be taken too seriously. I just happen to believe you should leave strategy up to your coach and just do your poems. When slamming as an indie, make a plan and stick to it or don’t but don’t strategize too much, it’ll make you sick to your stomach. Ask yourself what poems you most want to do and do them poems, when you let em go free they fill up the room faster anyhow. I didn’t go back and rewrite any of this, this is just me getting some things off my chest. This is a letter to the new guy who talked all about his plans. This is a get-out-while-you-still-can call-to-arms. This is something you should tell yourself in the mirror before every slam. This is a slam chant fa dat ass.


Set every slam on fire and push it out into the river to float on it’s own until it drowns. Let it die. Remind it that it never lived to begin with. Your poems do, however. They live and breathe and without care and attention they ripen and then begin to rot like fruit. Worry about your poems. Worry about dem page babies. They need to be taken care of. They need to be woken up before the bout, they should be fed a good breakfast of practice and encouragement, they need to be let loose to run around and work out all they nerves, that way when you hold these babes by the hand and walk them out onstage they ain’t frightened in the least. Make sure they’re brave and calm, let them open up to the audience because you told them they were beautiful and could do anything. Worry about the work. Worry about your work. Worry about working on the things you take to the slam. Slam cannot bring things to you. Forget that you ever hoped slam would bring things to you. Sheeeiiit, I been there. That’s why you started strategizing in the first place. You were scared you needed slam to give you something in return. Bring things to people instead. This is why you slammed that very first time. Nervous and knock-kneed, it was the applause that brought you back to the stage, not the volume. Do not ever judge the volume, do not ever judge a slam audience. You signed up to be judged, they didn’t sign up to judge you. You don’t know them muhthafuckers. If they don’t like you, fuck them. Maybe they had a bad day, maybe you picked a bad poem, maybe you weren’t supposed to win this one, better yet maybe this thing here is a poetry slam and you forgot that shit. Maybe you didn’t know slam was a gimmick to begin with. Maybe you forgot the points weren’t the point and that slam was built to be incalculable, maybe the best actual poet never wins, maybe you should go enter a popularity contest and leave this thing here to the real hundred-and-eighty proof muthafuckers. Maybe slam was built to be set on fire. Maybe you play with numbers and strategy too much. Maybe you need the comfort of knowing you’re better than others too often. Maybe you like the power you have over the audience so much you play God before you get in the building. Maybe you just wanna be God. Maybe you just wanna win so you can tell yourself you God. You is God. That’s what you be telling yourself. And when you don’t win, when you ain’t God, you be mad as the last chapter. You be trying to bring about the Revelation. Maybe you should just worry about your poems.