Angela Abbott
April 04, 2015 8:04 am

With April being National Poetry Month, one of the largest literary celebrations in the world, we thought it would be a good idea to spread the word about slam poetry. Slam poetry has been around since 1984, but is not nearly as popular or widely known as it should be.

So what makes slam poetry so cool? The poems are meant to be performed, which means each bit of acting that takes place during the performance adds more to the poem itself. Slam poetry is often about heavy issues as well, which means each poem is packed with vivid details to embrace or teach on those issues. And slam poetry almost always has a shock value that leaves you with your jaw dropped or your hands clapping together in agreement.

So, with that in mind, here are five slam poems you should watch ASAP!

Neil Hilborne “OCD”

Neil Hilborne’s poem “OCD” is probably one of the most widely known slam poems. Recently, the poem reached over 9 million views on YouTube and rightfully so. This poem brings awareness to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder through the backdrop of a relationship, showing the beginning, middle and end. The poem is lyrically on point, while also demonstrating the mentality of someone with OCD. This line: “The only thing I could think about was the hairpin curve of her lips or the eyelash on her cheek, the eyelash on her cheek, the eyelash on her cheek. . .”

The poem is both comedic as well as heartbreaking. At one point, he says “When she said she loved me, her mouth was a straight line.” Basically, you just need to watch this performance, if you haven’t already. Check it out here.

Marshall Jones “Touchscreen”

I don’t know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with technology. In some ways, I see it as a brilliant way to connect and spread information in an insanely quick manner. In other ways, I see it as an evil distraction that disconnects people from one and other. “Touchscreen” by Marshall Jones powerfully explores that concept. So much of the poem is a fantastic play on words. I mean, check this line out: “It used to be hard to connect when friends formed cliques, but it’s even more difficult to connect now that clicks form friends.” Then there’s this one: “From the garden of Eden to the branches of Macintosh, apple picking has always come at a great cost.”

The entire poem goes to great lengths to shows us that technology is becoming a downfall in our lives. There is desperation in his words and the whole piece is brilliantly performed, at points in a robotic fashion, to really drive the point home. Check it out here.

Patrick Roche “21”

Talk about shock value. This poem has it. “21” is an incredibly emotional piece about a young man who grew up with an alcoholic father. On a deeper level, this poem is about acceptance. Roche uses age to tell his story, but counts down from the age of 21 to the time of his birth. At age 21, the speaker seems to harbor feelings of animosity, but as Roche gets younger, you see his feelings change. In his teenage years, he blames himself for his father’s problems. “15 I come up with the theory that my father started drinking again, because he found out I’m gay, like if he could make everything else blurry, maybe somehow I’d look straight.” As he gets younger, his entire demeanor changes. The delivery of each line becomes more boyish as if he is completely becoming his younger self. The ending is powerful with a sense of bitterness and sadness. Check it out here.

Lily Myers “Shrinking Woman”


As a little girl, I always got so mad at my mom for making me do all the chores in the house, while my brother got to do all of the chores outside. Sometimes, he wouldn’t have to do anything in the evenings, but I always had to set the table and do the dishes. As I got older, I realized that my mother was unconsciously perpetuating gender roles. This poem reminds me of that experience. In her piece, Myers looks at what she learned from her mother on how to be a “lady.” She shows what women are taught versus men and what is acceptable for each gender, which obviously, causes men and women to remain in specific gender roles.

At one point she says, “And I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking, making space for the entrance of men into their lives, not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.” This line perfectly shows that old school of thought that women must rely on men. Myers is all about throwing this concept out the window. Check it out here.

Sabrina Benaim “Explaining Depression to My Mother”

Having struggled with depression before, I know first-hand how hard it is to understand and how much more difficult it is to explain depression to a loved one. This poem breaks it all down beautifully. Benaim tells us how her mother doesn’t understand her depression, suggesting that she should “hang out with friends” or just choose to be happy. Her mother obviously wants her child to be OK, but doesn’t grasp her daughter’s mental illness and doesn’t know how to handle it, which just causes more frustration for Benaim.

One of her most powerful lines, “but my stuttering kneecaps clank like silver spoons held in strong arms with loose wrists, they ring in my ears like clumsy church bells reminding me I am sleepwalking on an ocean of happiness I cannot baptize myself in.” At this point the author realizes what she is dealing with, even though it is still abstract. If you’ve ever been depressed or if you’ve ever felt it was hard to explain something to someone, you should definitely watch Benaim’s poem. Check it out here.

(Images via YouTube)

Advertisement