Welcome to the Urban Word NYC’s 20th Annual Teen Poetry Slam’s FAQ’s. Our Slam
programs are among the most rigorous and competitive in the country, and we’ve
ranked among the top 5 teams in the nation for each of the past 11 years!
If there is anything left unanswered here please contact Slam Director Shannon
Matesky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For tickets to our Grand Slam Finals hosted
by Aja Monet please visit apollotheater.org.
What is a Poetry Slam?
A Poetry Slam is an Olympic style poetry competition. Created in 1984, by a construction
worker and poet Marc Smith who started a poetry reading at a Chicago jazz club, the
Get Me High lounge. He was looking for a way to breathe life into the open mic format.
The series and its emphasis on performance laid the groundwork for the brand of
poetry that would eventually be exhibited in a slam.
At Urban Word NYC you can also be a rapper and lyricist. You are judged by 5 judges
and given scores on a scale of 1-10. The Highest and lowest scores are dropped
leaving a max potential score of 30. The Poets with the highest scores advance to the
When does it start?
Slam season begins March 5th with Preliminary Slams and ends with our Grand Slam
Finals April 14th. See our website urbanwordnyc.org for full schedule and location
Who can enter?
Anyone that falls between the ages 13-19 can apply. If you are already 19 years old, your
birthday MUST be after 7/1/1999. Applicants are welcome from all boroughs and New Jersey.
If you have been on an Urban Word NYC team we have a tradition that you can only qualify for
the team once and will not be able to secure another tenure on a team.
What do I need to prepare?
For the entire competition, there is a max of 4 poems to prepare. For Preliminary and
Semi-Finals you are expected to bring one poem, no longer than 3 minutes and 30 seconds, for
each. We would prefer that they be two separate pieces. For Grand Slam Finals you can repeat
one of your 3 minute and 30-second poems or write a new one, and will be expected to write a 1-minute poem on a topic to be announced soon!
The work MUST be original work. The top 5
poets are chosen to represent New York in the national competition, Brave New Voices
International Teen Poetry Slam in July.
What is the process? What do I need to expect?
You will register for a Preliminary Slam and 8-10 poets will advance to Semi-Finals. The top 5
poets from each Semi-Final will advance to the NYC Grand Slam Finals at the Historic Apollo
Theater. 15 poets will compete in the NYC Grand Slam Finals for a chance to make top 5. The
top 5 poets will make up the 2018 NYC Slam Team and will begin.
Every year that I apply do I need to start from scratch?
If you are apart of Urban Word NYC’s Youth Board or were on last years Final Stage you
advance automatically to Semi-Finals. Please email email@example.com for the
Semi-Final registration form.
How many poets advance?
10-15 poets advance from each Preliminary Slam. 5-6 poets advance from each Semi
Final Slam and the top 5 poets will advance to represent NYC at Nationals.
How much does it cost to compete?
It is FREE to register and compete.
How much does it cost to attend?
For the general public to attend Preliminary and Semi-Final events the cost is FREE.
Grand Slam Finals at the historic Apollo Theater are $10 for Teens and $12 for Adults.
Tickets for Finals are on sale now. Purchase tickets online via Ticketmaster or in person
at the Apollo Theater Box Office (M, T, Th, Fri 10 AM – 6 PM; Wed 10 AM – 8 PM; Sat
12 PM – 6 PM). You may also call the Apollo Theater Box Office at (212)531-5305.
What happens after I register?
Wait for your confirmation of date, time and location via email from the Slam Director for
next steps. Prepare for the slam!
What happens if I win?
The top 5 poets will advance to represent New York in the national competition, Brave
New Voices International Teen Poetry Slam in July. They will be scheduled to rehearse
regularly in preparation for nationals. Their commitment will be a minimum meeting of
one session per week.
Who are the judges?
Judges are volunteer teachers, board members, community members, poets, adults in the
community who are fans and supporters of poetry! They volunteer January through March.
Judges or the NYC Grand Slam finals are VIP Poets, Mentors, Alumni and key supporters of
Urban Word NYC.
How should I prepare?
Please be encouraged to join an on-site workshop! We are currently offering Slam School and
Got Bars? Also, every week Urban Word NYC’s Youth Board holds our FREE Open Mic, First
Draft! Please feel free to come and share, practice, get better, and ask for Feedback! You also
can prepare by doing research on our Youtube Channel from past Slams, other youth slams
such as Brave New Voices or Louder Than a Bomb, our mentors, Button Poetry, and All Def
Digital. Feel free to visit the office to practice or ask a staff member or Poet in Residence for
advice! We are here for you!