Performing poetry slam: and listening closely to slam poetry

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The article addresses poetry slam as an example of an oral turn captured in contemporary poetry practices that seems to extend the landscape of literary arts (Gioia, 2003). We investigate poetry slam as a phenomenon that mediates between at least two quite different (audio) language cultures – namely the contemporary Western literary poetry reading and a literary network, on the one side, and, on the other side, the rap battle connected to hip hop culture (other genres, such as e.g. stand-up comedy, could also have been drawn into the discussion, but in order to clarify our argument we have chosen to keep focus on the two mentioned). The article builds on a generalised perspective negotiating poetry slam as an aesthetic and cultural phenomenon in between hip hop culture and literary culture, but it also includes a close reading/listening aspect deriving from a specific example, namely a performance by the 2012 poetry slam world champion Harry Baker. Positioning poetry slam in between literary culture and more popular cultural forms has previously been addressed by for instance Jeremy Kaye (2006) discussing the relationship between academic and popular aspects of poetry slam, Helen Gregory (2009) studying poetry slam in terms of interactions between avant-garde and established art worlds and Kathleen Crown (2001) pointing to poetry slams as subscribing to both popular and literary/poetry-based cultural influences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-83
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


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