What important implications slam poetry has for youth writing in the “there and now” is one of the questions Bronwen Low opens up to us in “Slammin’ School Performance Poetry and the Urban School”? In this article, which was one of our readings for this week, Low reads the rhetoric of the literacy crisis against what the new literacies movement has revealed about adolescent literacies: that youth feel compelled to speak through a range of related mediums such as slam poetry, hip hop and social media. Turning the idea of literacy being some sort of singular "entity" on its head, involves not only working with different literacy modalities (reading and writing, texting, oral traditions, video, for example), but also working to redefine what constitutes literacies not as outputs (final products) but as practices.
Low, quoting Frith (1983, p. 17) explains that “Black music is immediate and democratic – a performance is unique and the listeners of that performance become part of it” (p. 78) From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Slam Poetry, we learn that “Slam poetry is the brainchild of Marc Smith (So What!) and the blue collar intellectual eccentrics who crammed into the Get Me High Lounge on Monday nights from November 1984 to September 1986 for a wide-open poetry experience. Finger-poppin’ hipster Butchie (James Dukaris) owned the place and allowed anything to happen, and it usually did. The experimenters in this new style of poetry presentation gyrated, rotated, spewed, and stepped their words along the bar top, dancing between the bottles, bellowing out the backdoor, standing on the street or on their stools, turning the west side of Chicago into a rainforest of dripping whispers or a blast furnace of fiery elongated syllables, phrases, snatches of scripts, and verse that electrified the night.”
A few questions and thoughts to consider about teaching and slam poetry:
· When we talk about digital storytelling or other tools to communicate, the concept of audience is important.
· Interesting how slam poetry uses alternative literacy as a comment about the failings of ‘in-school’ traditional literacies.
“Trouble around the text”: Fears that emerged in our discussion
· Trouble around assessment – how does assessing slam poetry different than assessing a poem a student writes on the page. What is inherent in performance that adds to the writing?
· Location : does it work in a rural setting?
· How do you evaluate a genre that is new to you as a teacher or that you might not understand?