Poetry Fire!

The prelim poetry slams that culminate at Open Book Festival 2019 on the 7th September at 20.00 kick off next week (10 August).

The judges and facilitator have put together some answers to questions you may have and have also outlined the rules!


What is a poetry slam?
A slam is a competitive poetry competition that focuses on penmanship and performance. Poetry slams are governed by a set of rules that are followed by all the contestants. It is not a genre or style of poetry. ALL poems and poets are welcome. 

Can I compete in more than one prelim?
Yes you sure can. 
How are the winners determined?
At the slam we will have 5 judges – 3 judges appointed by Open Book Festival, and 2 audience judges. Each contestant will be scored out of 10. The highest and the lowest scores given to each contestant will be disregarded and the middle 3 scores will be tallied. The person with the highest score at the end of all 3 rounds is declared the champion. 

  • Contestants need to be 16 years and up to compete in the slams. If you are under 16 years of age you need to bring a signed consent form. (Should we draw one up?)

  • Poets may perform in any language.

  • Poets are allowed to bring a translated transcript of their poem to give to the judges before their set should they so wish.

  • Any physical extension outside of one’s own voice or body will be seen as a prop, unless it is needed for medical reasons.

  • If contestants choose to perform as a duo/group then they need to compete as such throughout the competition.

  • Reading from a page/device will be allowed at the prelims, but not at the final.

  • All contestants need to sign up by 12:30 on the day of the slam.
  • All slams consist of 3 rounds. In each round there are different constraints:
    • ROUND ONE – Each contestant is given 1 minute to perform. No costumes, no props, and no backing tracks allowed. 
    • ROUND TWO – Each contestant is given 2 minutes to perform. No costumes, no props, and no backing tracks allowed.
    • ROUND THREE – Each contestant is given 3 minutes to perform. No limitations are given in terms of how the contestants want to perform their poem/s. 
    • If these restrictions are broken the contestant will be disqualified.

  • All contestants who go over time will be penalised. 0.5 will be deducted for every 10 seconds you go over time.

  • Contestants will be judged on the following 
    • Content – Does the poem have a clear intent, do we know why you are talking about a particular theme/topic.
    • Originality/ Idea – Is the poetry being performed original work created by the contestant? Are the themes/views expressed in the poem innovative and exciting. 
    • Form – How well is the poem put together? Is there a clear structure? Does the poet make use of poetic forms such as a sonnet, ghazal, pantoum, blank verse, etc.
    • Performance – How comfortable is the poet in reciting the work? Are the words audible, and are they clearly articulated. 
    •  Audience Engagement – How does the audience react to the material? Does the poet engage with the audience? What is their body language like?
  • Contestants will be scored out of 10 by the three Open Book judges and two additional audience judges. The highest and the lowest scores given will fall away and only the middle 3 scores will be tallied.

  • No hate speech is allowed. Contestants will be penalised for transphobic, homophobic, sexist, or ableist language used. Derogatory language used to describe people or traditions of a different ethnic or religious group will not be tolerated.