Contents

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Introduction: Slam and the Search for Poetry’s Great Audience

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pp. 1-15

On or about August 1988, contemporary American poetry changed. The relations between poetry and its audience—between academics and their venerated tomes, MFA students and their assigned readings, rappers and the rhymes they busted—shifted...

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1. On Page and Stage: Slam Poetry as a Genre

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pp. 16-38

In trying to isolate its appeal to contemporary audiences, scholars have mainly focused on the orality of slam poetry—on the transmission of an original poetic text through speaking. For example, in his 2004 essay “Disappearing Ink,” Dana Gioia characterizes the reemergence...

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2. Poetry and the People: The Cultural Tensions of American Popular Verse in Performance

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pp. 39-67

In America, the use of the term popular verse has a varied history. It has been used to describe the lyric formality of rap, the nomadic and hip strain of the Beats, the militant vernacular assumed by Black Arts poets, the populist practice of poetry, and even the jingles of radio stations and television commercials. When literary critics speak of American popular verse, they imply a poetry...

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3. I Sing the Body Authentic: Slam Poetry and the Cultural Politics of Performing Identity

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pp. 68-95

As places where authorship is consciously performed, liberal political ideals are shared, and diversity is celebrated, poetry slams are venues where poets come to express themselves. When I say “express themselves,” I mean more than “to say what’s on their minds.” A frequent mode of address...

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4. "Commercial Niggas Like Me": Spoken Word Poetry, Hip-Hop, and the Racial Politics of Going Mainstream

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pp. 96-133

Although the slam proper began over twenty years ago at a grassroots level, national attention to slam poetry has been paid only in the last decade. This attention has manifested itself across several different media; representations of slam poetry have surfaced in theater and ‹lm, on CDs and MP3s, and on streaming video on the Internet,...

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Epilogue: "Designs for Living"—Notes on the Future of Slam Poetry

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pp. 134-138

It is time for the relative critical silence about slam poetry to be broken. In its life in the public sphere, both as a grassroots practice in local slams and as a larger commercial practice in the genre of spoken word poetry, slam poetry exhibits many of the qualities of other performance poetry movements in America. These include...

Appendix

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pp. 139-152

Notes

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pp. 153-168

Bibliography

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pp. 169-178

Index

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pp. 179-191