“Slam is the lighthouse for the democratization of art.“ – Bob Holman
… is a competition of playwrights. Up to a dozen poets share the same stage in one night to recite their texts to an audience as exciting, thrilling, loud and fast as necessary and as empathically and sweetly as possible. The audience, in turn, receives the jury power and decides (either collectively through the volume of applause or in the form of selected audience judges) the winners and losers of the evening.
Slam is literature as a sport. A Poetry Slam is exciting and entertaining. A gladiator fight of great speakers. A wrestling match of alliteration. Slam is not a reading, because Slam understands why readings do not work. Slam springs from the spoken word and not from the confused idea that written texts also have to work read aloud. Slam is not a forum for deep reflection, for thoughts, where sense emerges only after repeating it. Slam is the place for pathos, for manifestos, kitsch and torrents of hatred. The best conditions for modern poetry. Slam poets do not need a table to hide behind, because they must be consciously aware of their effect on stage. Slammers do not need a water glass, because beer, red wine and absinthe keeps the voice better oiled, and Slammers stand at the microphone, because someone who really has something to say, should not remain seated.
This format was invented by an American. How could it be otherwise? Marc Kelly Smith from Chicago, who is lovingly called “Slampapi” by people around the world, has concocted Slam! not only as an afterburner for the scarred concept of the reading, but always as a parody of the free market. “We detest the contest and its ally war, ”says the Slam manifesto “Disclaimer” of New York slam legend Bob Holman. The Slammers come on stage not to go against each other and to see who is better. The competition is designed to give the evening a dramatic mood bow, from the “sacrificial lamb”, which opens the evening, through the mutual whip on in the preliminary rounds, until the glorious finale. This also makes the winner a minor matter. Shortly after the victory the evening is over and the fame spreads to the after-show party at the most. The only measure of actual performance, besides the seniority in the scene, is the placement at the major German Championship. The most important concept of slam is therefore not a literary concept, but that of the Slamily, the “family” of Slammers, organizers and fans. With few exceptions Slammers do not travel half of Europe because they need to earn their living, but so they can meet up with people with whom they are connected through their love of the language and the joy of the game.
„The point is not the points, the point is the poetry.“ – Allan Wolf
Of course, one may wonder whether Slam still really is literature. But the answer is not so simple. To settle the matter once and for all: Slam Poetry is not improvised and it never has been. Slammers are poets, not improvisation artists. Further generalizations are then more difficult to make. From classic fragile poetry to hip hop lyrics about “Schnitzelbank” rhymes to sophisticated, compressed short stories – you can find everything on our stages. The principle is simple: Quality is what the audience likes. Of course, this can also be bad. Slammers talk about the things that really matter to them. We talk about sex and alcohol, music and movies, party nights and shattered relationships, drug abuse and politicians. Quite quickly the accusation appears that Slam lyrics are flat and not written for eternity, that the themes of the texts reflect merely our drab and obscene every day and never transcend our boring lives. That may be. But they reflect our time as accurate as no other genre can. And they are fun. We cannot expect more of our art.
Etrit Hasler, 06.01.06, Appenzeller Zeitung (reduced text version)