Slam Poetry Vs. Spoken Word: All You Need To Know  

slam poetry
by CJ McDaniel // August 1  

People have different views about slam poetry and spoken words. Some refer to them as poetry, others as a script, and some as a form of rap or hip-hop. Whatever your concept, have it in mind that they have elements of poetry even though they involve performance.

In reality, slam poetry and spoken word are used interchangeably. It’s so because of the similarities between them. Also, the differences between them are so small compared to their similarities.

This article is a comparison between slam poetry and the spoken word. However, it shows what makes up slam poetry and spoken word and how you can write and perform it.

What Is Slam Poetry?

Slam poetry is known as a form of spoken word that is performed in a slam. It’s performed as a competition between poets at the event. Usually, at a slam, judges are picked from among the audience to score each poet’s performance. It also depends on how it engages the audience.

What Is A Spoken Word?

A spoken word refers to a poem written and has to be performed. It refers to poetry that is written for performance on stage. It can be performed anywhere the poet chooses to or wherever he has a platform to perform.

Comparison Between Slam Poetry And Spoken Word
Slam poetry is performed as a form of competition with other poets. While the spoken word is usually not a competition, it can be just a performance to entertain an audience.

Slam poetry occurs in events known as a poetry slam. But spoken word occurs at any gathering or event, even in a classroom.

However, they’re both performance poetry. That involves reading the poem aloud, using body language, gestures, and facial expressions to pass the message well. Also, you’ll require a similar kind of preparation to write and perform them.

Therefore, they have the same elements, procedures, and steps for writing and performance.

Elements Of Spoken Word And Slam Poetry

Concrete language: Spoken word poetry makes use of concrete language. It includes words and phrases that give your audience a clear understanding of the topic. It also makes the poem clear and vivid. Also, it uses a language that appeals to the senses.

Attitude: It consists of how you perform your spoken word. You should perform it in a way that gives off the opinions and feelings behind it. You should be able to play out your poem. It’s the attitude you deliver that makes it really spoken word poetry and not just a recitation.

Repetition: It involves repeating some phrases or words to create emphasis. Such words or phrases easily stick to the minds of your audience. Also, it contributes to making the poem exciting.

Literary devices: Spoken word contains literary devices. They help to make the spoken word more than just simple sentences. So, they show the audience what you mean and express emotions. They include simile, metaphor, personification, etc. Also, it would be best if you don’t overuse them.

Rhythm: This refers to a pattern of sound that comes with stressing different syllables. It gives a kind of flow to the poem. Also, it uses sound to reinforce meaning. You can use some sound devices like onomatopoeia, alliteration, and consonance to create rhythm.

Rhyme: It involves the use of the same sounds at the end of a line. However, you can choose not to use rhymes. It’s according to your style. But use it moderately.

How To Write Spoken Word And Slam Poetry

Watch others perform: To write and perform spoken words and slam poetry effectively, you have to watch others perform. You can attend a poetry slam or watch them online. Note the ones that impress you most and why they did. Also, be attentive to their use of words, rhythm, and flow of the spoken words.

Some people may prefer to take this step before writing their poems. Others prefer doing so after they’re done writing to get inspired on performing it. So watch others perform whenever suits your purpose.

Choose a topic: Before you write your spoken word poem, you have to choose a topic. You have to select a topic that you’re passionate about because the poem is performed with emotions. You can also choose one that’s a special memory.

However, it’s best if it’s not too broad but specific. For instance, a topic on “love” can be narrowed down to “meeting your first love, or how you love your mom.” Also, it can be centered on your experiences, such as “being part of a large family.” It can also be in the form of a question such as,” What is fear?”

The point is that whatever you choose should draw out your passion while you perform.

Write down all your ideas: Once you’ve selected your topic, take out time to write down ideas. When you brainstorm, put down whatever comes to mind. Write down all your thoughts and feelings towards the topic. Also, you can take breaks and come back to it.

Furthermore, it’ll also help if you carry a pen and a little journal in your pocket or purse. That way, you can easily put down random ideas where ever you are. It’s normal for you to go off point when you brainstorm. That doesn’t mean you won’t get it right.

Write your first draft: After you’re done writing your ideas, you have to put down your first draft. Pick out the words or phrases that relate to your topic. Focus on bringing out the best from the mountain of ideas you wrote down initially.

Also, arrange words to suit the message you want to pass. Start with simple phrases till you get the framework for your poem. Once you’ve gotten what tells the story, then you’re good to go.

Use literary devices: Now that you’ve gotten a framework to work with, use literary devices. They give a flow to your spoken word. Add them in the right parts of your poem. Also, choose the best for your spoken word, such as simile, metaphor, etc.

Check for sentences that’ll sound better with a literary device. However, don’t erase your original lines. Indicate the replacement beside it or write another copy using the replacement. It may help because the original line may still be useful.

Make use of repetitions and wordplay: Adding repetition and wordplay can boost your spoken word. When you repeat some words or lines, it emphasizes them. Also, it keeps replaying in the mind of your audience and becomes memorable.

Furthermore, wordplay creates a mixture of feelings for your audience. It also improves the creativity of your poem.

Improve the sound: You’re writing your spoken word to read it aloud, so make sure it sounds good. You don’t need a rhyme scheme, but you can use rhyme to improve the sound. Also, the rhythm of your spoken word can improve when you use poetic devices. They include alliteration, onomatopoeia, and so on.

Revise your poem: After you’re through improving your poem, all that’s left is to revise it. It should help you finalize your poem. First, take a break (very important!). It’ll help you revise your piece with fresh eyes.

When you revise it, you’re likely to see what you could have written in a better way. Read it out loud, first to yourself and then a friend. Try to do it several times. Also, effect any corrections you notice it.

Additionally, your piece should have an image. It should be able to pass the right message in the right way to your audience.

How To Improve Your Performance For Spoken Word And Slam Poetry 

After you write your poem, you have to memorize it. That makes performing it easier. But you’ll need to practice a lot to give a great performance.

Posture: Practice the correct posture for performing. You’ll have to stand upright, with your head held high. Bear in mind that the right posture shows your confidence. So your audience will be more eager to see what you have to offer. That’s why you should practice, because you may be nervous, especially if it’s your first time.

However, you can use any posture that explains your spoken word when you’re performing.

Eye contact: Make eye contact with your audience from time to time. It’ll get their attention and will also help to emphasize that part. Don’t make the mistake of going to the stage with a piece of paper. Even if you hide it, your audience will notice that you’re looking at something else.

Volume and pitch: Your volume and pitch should make your spoken words clear. They can also emphasize some words or lines. Your voice should be loud enough for your audience to hear you. But it would help if you aren’t too fast for your pitch.

Pauses: Pause when it’s needed. Don’t just say the words from start to end with no pauses. A short pause each time a dot separates the lines is essential. However, you can use pauses according to your discretion to drive your point home.

Facial expression: Your facial expression should reflect the mood of the spoken word. If there are different moods at various parts, your facial expression should easily switch to reflect them.

Gesture: You can use various gestures to express more clearly, what a line is saying. It also reflects what the poem entails. The way you move your body or use your hands says a lot about the poem and emphasizes a point.


In essence, the main difference between slam poetry and spoken word is in the events that they’re performed. Apart from that, you prepare for both performances in the same way. Therefore, they have the same elements and framework when writing them.

So, you can use the poem you performed as a spoken word to compete at a poetry slam. Now, you can easily write your piece, memorize, practice, and finally, perform it as a spoken word or slam poetry.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!