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(left to right) Javon Johnson, Natasha Hooper, and Rudy Francisco representing San Diego Poetry Slam, the current National Poetry Slam Champions. Photo by Mariah Bottomly.
In 2015, Chicago was selected as one of the anchor cities of the National Poetry Slam, placing the City of Big Shoulders on a 5-year rotation to hold the event. This August, we’re up. The world’s largest performance poetry event will return to Chicago for the first time in 15 years.
In its 29th year, the National Poetry Slam is an annual championship tournament in which four- to five-person teams from all over North America compete for the national team title. The week-long festival is billed as part tournament, part poetry summer camp, and part traveling exhibition.
As the birthplace of slam poetry (or competitive performance poetry) in the mid-80s, Chicago has one of the most thriving poetry scenes in the nation, according to organizers. The Slam is in its 29th year, and Chicago teams have often made a showing, including championships in 1990 and 1991. At the event, 80 nationally ranked teams will compete at least twice. Scores are calculated across the tournament, and at the end of the third night a selection of teams move onto semi-finals, then finals, from which the champions are chosen. In addition to a cash award, the winners get a giant sword-through-a-stack-of-books trophy.
Workshops and other poetry slam events in multiple venues across the city will also be offered, such as the Haiku Slam, the Nerd Slam, and identity-celebrating open mics.
The Slam will take place throughout Washington Park and Hyde Park, and along the Bucktown Corridor. The tournament kicks off on Tuesday, August 13 at six venues simultaneously, and will culminate in the final night of competition on Saturday, August 18 at the The UIC Forum. More info is available at nationalpoetryslam.com.