slam rules

vic slam is a “very serious” competition – performers are competing to be a member of the vic slam team, which represents our city’s poetry community at the annual canadian festival of spoken word.  note that alt shows, such as instant/nerd/lyric slam, abide by the rules of open mic unless otherwise specified. this document is long but please, read it thoroughly if you plan to compete at the slam.

*if you are a non-verbal poet, you may compete. in accordance with spoken word canada:
“assistive devices are legal in the national slam competition. a poet is allowed to have someone else read their poem for them if they are unable to do so.
the poet will be required to be on stage during the performance (and can ‘perform’ in any manner they wish while the poem is being read).
the person reading the poem should limit their performance to simply reading the poem (as opposed to adding any extra physical performance) unless they are also a member of the poet’s team, in which case they are free to perform in any way they (and the poet) wish.”

  • vpp asks that non-verbal poets who choose to compete throughout the season remain consistent with who they choose to read their work on their behalf by using the same person to read their work. we will do everything we can to ensure our space is as accessible as possible.

• poems can be on any subject and in any style.
• each poet must perform original work that they have created.
sampling: it is acceptable for a poet to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise “signify” on the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called “sampling”) in their own work. if they are only riffing off another’s words, they should expect only healthy controversy; if on the other hand, they are ripping off another’s words, they should expect scorn and ridicule.
no props: generally, poets are allowed to use their given environment and the accoutrements it offers – microphones, mic stands, the stage itself, chairs on stage, a table or bar top, the aisle, and audience members – as long as these accoutrements are available to all other competitors as well. the rule concerning props is not intended to squelch the spontaneity, unpredictability, or on-the-fly choreography that people love about the slam; its intent is to keep the focus on the words rather than objects.
no musical instruments or pre-recorded music.
no costumes.
repeats: poets may not repeat poems performed during the vic slam season at other regular vic slams during the same season. poems are exempt from this rule during finals. however, poets may not perform the same poem at finals within a 5-year span – meaning poems performed at or after the 2012-13 semi-finals or finals may not be performed at the 2017/18 finals.
team pieces: no team pieces are allowed at slams or finals

the show
• ALL 12 spots will be a random draw IF more than 12 poets sign up.
• the 2nd round will consist of the top 5 poets from the 1st round, in order from the highest 1st round score to the lowest (after time penalties have been deducted)

• no performance should last longer than 3 minutes
• time begins when the performance begins, which is when the poet makes any connection with the audience, verbal or not.
• poets are allowed several full seconds to adjust the microphone and get ready, but as soon as they make a connection with the audience, the timekeeper starts the clock.
•  poets do not have an unlimited amount of “mime time.” poets with ambiguous beginnings and endings to their performances should seek out the timekeeper before the show starts to settle on a starting and ending time.
• after 3 minutes, there is a 1–second grace period (up to and including 3:10:00).
• starting at 3:10:01, a 0.5 point per 10 seconds overtime penalty is automatically deducted from the poet’s overall score.
• the announcement of the time penalty will be made by the host or scorekeeper after all the judges have reported their scores. the judges should not even be a told that a poet went over time until it is too late for them to adjust their scores.
• maximum time limit: after 4 minutes, the host may stop a poet’s performance.

• all efforts shall be made to select five judges who will be fair.
• once chosen, the judges will have a private, verbal crash course by the host or house manager on the “do”s and “don’t”s of poetry slam judging (where they can ask questions).

• the judges will give each poem a score from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest or “perfect” score.
• they will be encouraged to use one decimal place in order to preclude the likelihood of a tie.
• each poem will get five scores; the high and the low scores will be dropped and the remaining three scores will be added together.

the host will announce to the audience each poet’s name.
• they will also require that all judges hold their scores up at the same time and that no judge changes their score after it is up.
• they are expected to move the show along quickly and keep the audience engaged and interested in the competition.
• since they must be completely impartial, any witty banter directed at individual poets, poems, teams, or scores is inappropriate. even genuine enthusiasm has to be carefully directed.
• the safest thing to do is encourage the audience to express their own opinions.

sacrificial poet
• because no poet wants to go first in the slam, and because some judges, scorekeepers, and timekeepers need practice, each slam begins with a “sacrificial poet” or calibration poet.
• this poet performs a piece and is scored as if they were competing in the slam.

qualifying for the vic slam team
• the top-scoring poets from the regular season (september-april) are invited to finals in may to compete to be on the victoria slam team.
• a slam’s top-scoring poets are given the following points for their standings:
1st- 5 points
2nd- 4 points
3rd- 3 point
4th –2 points
5th- 1 point
• points are added together at the end of the season and the 8 poets with the highest scores are invited to finals. if there are not enough poets with scores to fill the spots at finals, the remaining poets will be determined by averaged cumulative score.

• finals will consist of the top-scoring poets of the season, with the exact number to be determined by our slam commander.
• ALL COMPETING POETS will compete in ALL rounds of the finals show, unless eliminated in a previous round.
• 1st place determines grand slam champion.
• if a team is being sent to the canadian festival of spoken word, it will be made up of the 4 or 5 top-scoring poets of the finals, depending on vpp’s budget and poets’ availability.