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History of the National Poetry Slam

National Poetry Slam

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The National Poetry Slam (NPS) is a performance poetry competition where teams from across the United States, Canada, and, occasionally, Europe and Australia, participate in a large-scale poetry slam. The event occurs in early August every year and in different U.S. cities.


The first National Poetry Slam was held at Fort Mason in 1990 in San Francisco. [1] It was organized by poet Gary Mex Glazner and featured three competing teams: Chicago (birthplace of slam), New York City (Nuyorican), and San Francisco (host city).[1] It has been held every year since. 2014).[2]

From 1990 to 2007, the National Poetry Slam held an individual poetry competition (known as "indies") simultaneously with the team competition, with the poets earning the highest ranking individual poems during the first two days of competition moving on the semifinal and final rounds. The first winner of this event was Patricia Smith, who would go on to win the Individual National Poetry Slam Championship title a record four times.[3]

Starting in 2004, Poetry Slam Inc. (PSI) began hosting a separate event called the Individual World Poetry Slam (IWPS), in which solo poets, rather than teams, competed for the championship title.[4] Because of the popularity of iWPS and to avoid the confusion of two "individual" poetry slam titles being awarded ever year, Poetry Slam Inc. decided to cancel the "indie" competition at the National Poetry Slam.[5]

In 2008, the "Indie Finals" was replaced with the "Group Piece Finals," in which the teams with the highest ranking group pieces (multi-voice poems featuring more than one poet) competed for the title. Only teams who weren't already eligible for NPS semifinals were allowed to compete, with New York, NYC-Urbana being the first Group Piece Finals championship team.

Also in 2008, the Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWPS) was introduced, in which only female and female-identified poets are allowed to compete.[6] The first WOWPS was held in Detroit, Michigan and the first WOWPS champion was Andrea Gibson.[7]

In 2008, poet Harlym 125 created an unofficial individual competition called the National Underground Poetry Individual Competition (NUPIC) as a response to the absence of an individual competition at NPS.[8] The winner of this competition has traditionally been given a showcase spot on the finals stage at NPS.

The National Poetry Slam has also been the subject of several feature-length documentaries, including the 1998 Paul Devlin film SlamNation, and the 2006 Kyle Fuller and Mike Henry film Slam Planet.

Results by year[edit]

Team Finalists[3][9][edit]

YearWinnerRunners UpNumber of Competing TeamsHost City
2018Charlotte, SlamCharlotte(2) Da Poetry Lounge Slam Team
(3) Slammageddon Baltimore
(4) Salt City Unified
72Chicago, Illinois
2017San Diego PoetrySLAM[10](2) Brooklyn Poetry Slam
(3) The House Slam (Boston)
(4) Da Poetry Lounge Slam Team
84Denver, Colorado
2016Slammageddon Baltimore[11](2) San Diego PoetrySLAM
(3) The House Slam (Boston)
(4) Austin NeoSoul
72Decatur, Georgia
2015The House Slam[12](2) Hawaii Slam
(3) Berkeley Slam
(4) Denver Mercury Poetry Slam
72Oakland, California
2014D.C. Beltway Poetry Slam[13](2) New York, NYC-Urbana
(3) Slam New Orleans
(4) Denver, Slam Nuba
72Oakland, California
2013Slam New Orleans[14](2) Hollywood (Da Poetry Lounge)
(3) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(4) Elevated! San Diego
2012Slam New Orleans[15](2) Killeen, Texas
(3) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(4) Hollywood (Da Poetry Lounge)
72Charlotte, North Carolina
2011Denver, Slam Nuba(2) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(3) Providence Poetry Slam
(4) Columbus, Ohio Writing Wrongs
2010St. Paul, Soapboxing(2) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(3) Durham, North Carolina Bull City Slam Team
(4) Austin, Neo Soul
78St. Paul, Minnesota
2009St. Paul, Soapboxing(2) Albuquerque, ABQ Slams
(3) San Francisco
(4) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
68West Palm Beach, Florida
2008Charlotte, SlamCharlotte(2) New York, louderARTS
(3) Austin
(4) Boston, Cantab
75Madison, Wisconsin
2007Charlotte, SlamCharlotte(2) Killeen, TX Rhyme or Die
(3) New York, louderARTS
(4) Denver, Slam Nuba
(5) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
76Austin, Texas
2006Denver(2) Austin, Southflavas
(3) New York, louderARTS
(4) DC-Baltimore
(5) Miami
75Austin, TX
2005Albuquerque, ABQ Slams(2) Charlotte, Slam Charlotte
(3) Fort Worth
(3) Hollywood (Da Poetry Lounge)
75Albuquerque, New Mexico
2004Hollywood (Da Poetry Lounge)(2) Denver
(3) Dallas
(4) Berkeley
69St. Louis, Missouri
2003Los Angeles(2) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(3) Austin
(4) Oakland
2002New York, NYC-Urbana/ Detroit (Tie)(3) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(4) Seattle
2001Dallas(2) Los Angeles
(3) Seattle
(4) New York, NYC-Urbana
2000New York, NYC-Urbana(2) San Antonio
(3) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(4) New York, louderARTS
56Providence, Rhode Island
1999San Francisco & San Jose (Tie)(3) New York, louderARTS (4) Oakland48Chicago
1998New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe(2) Dallas
(3) Los Angeles
(4) Cleveland
1997New York, Mouth Almighty(2) Chicago, Green Mill
(3) Cleveland
(4) Worcester
33Middletown, Connecticut
1996Providence(2) Berwyn
(3) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(4) Austin
27Portland, Oregon
1995Asheville(2) Cleveland
(3) Boston
(4) Maine
27Ann Arbor, Michigan
1994Cleveland(2) Boston
(3) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(4) Asheville
24Asheville, North Carolina
1993Boston(2) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(3) Cambridge
(4) Cleveland
23San Francisco
1992Boston(2) San Francisco
(3) Ann Arbor
1991Chicago, Green Mill(2) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
(3) San Francisco
(4) Boston
1990Chicago, Green Mill(2) San Francisco
(3) New York, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
3San Francisco

Individual Finalists at NPS[3][edit]

YearWinnerRunners Up

*Final year Indies held
Danny Sherrard(2) Christopher Michael
(3) Shannon Leigh
(4) Alvin Lau
(Other finalists: Kealoha, Michael Guinn, 6 is 9, Ed Mabrey, Oz, Robbie Q. Telfer)
2006Anis Mojgani(2) Alvin Lau
(3) Jon Goode
(4) Lee Knight Jr.
(Other finalists: Erin Jackson (poet), Jamie Kilstein, Amy Weaver, Iyeoka Okoawo, Falu, Travis Watkins)
2005Janean Livingston Anis Mojgani (tie)(3) Ragan Fox
(4) Christa Bell
(Other finalists: Jamie Kennedy, Eric Darby, Xero Skidmore)
2004Sonya Renee(2) Jaylee Alde
(3) Shane Koyczan
(4) Andrea Gibson
(5) Chunky
(6) Kimberley Brazwell

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History of the National Poetry Slam


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