This past Tuesday, I produced my first regular poetry slam in over three years. I took the lessons learned from the previous weekly poetry slam and running my reading series There Will Be Words and here were the results.

  • The head-to-head format works. In a traditional poetry slam, you compete against several other poets and where you place is based on the scoring of three or five judges selected randomly from the audience. The head-to-head format allows the poets to face one opponent AND gives the audience a chance to digest poems in smaller chunks, rather than hear poem after poem after poem.
  • The ENTIRE audience judging the slam created a supportive environment for everyone. In a slam that uses three or five judges, the rest of the audience will boo or cheer them based on the scores that they receive. If the judges consistently score low, it creates a negative experience for those judges. At the end of the night, everyone enjoyed the experience (and it made the audience pay attention to the poem).
  • Monthly is better than weekly. You can’t beat people to death with literature. People have a harder time coming weekly to a show than coming monthly. Some shows here locally have developed a weekly following, and that’s great. As an organizer, I did weekly slams for eight years. There were weeks were attendance was bad from an audience and/or a competing poet perspective. Monthly is better from a quality and attendance perspective.

The first show was overall a success. We had seven poets and quite a few faces in the audience that I haven’t seen before. Out of the seven poets competing, four of them were women (which made me really happy as an organizer). I think this slam format is something worth sustaining and I’m looking forward to the next one. If all of this continues, this could be a regular second show from There Will Be Words.


Three of my Yelp review pieces are up in the debut issue of Hardly Doughnuts, which you can read here.

“Yelp Review – Blockbuster Video, Morgantown, WV” was nominated by Drunk Monkeys for the Best of the Net anthology. I am crossing all my limbs on this one. You can check out that poem again here.


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About J. Bradley

J. Bradley's is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals including decomP, Hobart, and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of PANK, the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series There Will Be Words and lives at

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Best of the Net, Drunk Monkeys, Hardly Doughnuts, poetry, poetry slam, poetry slam organizing tips, There Will Be Words, Yelp, Yelp review project