Best Slam Poetry: 5 Top Works from Master Slam Poets

Get inspired by powerful slam poetry examples written by America’s top slam poets, all analyzed in this article in simple and concrete terms.

While reading slam poems is always welcome, this type of “spoken word poetry” is best appreciated when heard live during a performance. After all, poetry is intended to be heard as well as read!

Many coffee shops, bars, and community centers host poetry slams and invite locals to share their poetry aloud during open mic sessions, so check your local listings to see if there are any upcoming shows.

If you want to hear slam poetry performed live without leaving the comfort of your living room or bedroom, you can go to YouTube and watch videos of the best slam poets on the circuit right now.


What is Slam Poetry?

Slam poetry is a type of performance poetry in which the elements of performance, writing, competition, and audience participation are combined. Poetry slams, or simply slams, are events where it is performed.

The name slam was inspired by the audience’s ability to praise or, at times, destroy a poem, as well as the poet’s high-energy performance style.

The concept of slam poetry began in the 1980s in Chicago, Illinois, when Marc Kelly Smith, a local poet, and construction worker, felt that poetry readings and poetry, in general, had lost their true passion and had an idea to bring poetry back to the people.


Best Five Slam Poetry

We’ve compiled a short list of some of the best online performances. Simply click on the links to watch and listen: you might be inspired to follow in these poets’ footsteps and perform your own slam poem:


1. Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make”

slam poetry examples


Taylor Mali, National Poetry Slam Champion and Def Poetry Jam alum on HBO provide an insightful response to the question “What do teachers make?”

In this viral performance that received nearly 5 million views Mali, a former teacher provides an eloquent, emotionally charged response that goes far beyond dollar signs.


2. Erik Ott’s “Falling in Like” (Big Poppa E)

Big Poppa E perfectly captures the first sparks of budding friendship (and possible future romance?) among young kids in this poem in a sweet, nostalgic, and high-energy reading.

“You make me feel goofy goofy like I blush when someone mentions your name,” and “Girl, I don’t want to make out with you.” “I’d like to build a fort with you!” “I would write ‘I like you’ in sparkles and glitter on my homemade Valentine’s Day card.”


3. “Pursuit of Happiness” by Ed Mabrey 

"Pursuit of Happiness" by Ed Mabrey 

Mabrey, an Emmy nominee, and current Individual World Poetry Slam co-champion, vividly recounts an eye-opening encounter with a homeless man at a Subway restaurant that prompts self-reflection.


4. Denice Frohman’s “Dear Straight People”

Denice Frohman's "Dear Straight People"

Frohman, the reigning Women of the World Poetry Slam champion, explores race, gender, and sexuality in her poetry.

This open letter to heterosexuals is both humorous and poignant, reflecting her commitment to equality.


5. Rachel McKibbens’ “Last Love”

slam poetry examples

In “Last Love,” this nine-time national poetry slam team member and former Women of the World Poetry Champion gives heartfelt advice to her daughters while weaving in words about overcoming abuse. Here are some powerful verses:

“Let the man behind the church do what he did if it brings me to you,” and “Let my father break me again and again if it brings me to you.” Amen.”



Slam poetry is now recognized as an artistic movement as well as poetry and spoken word genre. Slam poets influenced many aspects of modern culture, including political movements, art, media, literature, and entertainment, and the slam poetry movement inspired hundreds of poetry slams across the United States, Canada, parts of Europe, and Japan.

So, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite slam poems but what are yours? Please let us know in the comments section below.


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