Glossary of Terms

Calibration Poet
See "Sacrificial Goat"

Grand Slam Champion
Winner of the Grand Slam Finale, an event that happens once a year at the Nuyorican. The idea here is that this poet is competing with four others who have also won Semi-Final Slams during that year but emerges victorious on this particular night.

Grand Slam Finale
A yearly slam where winners of five Semi-Poetry Slams during the previous year compete against each other for the Grand Slam Champion title.

Performance Poetry
is not specifically created for any competition, but rather it is a hybrid of words and dramatic expression, much like a miniature theatrical performance. Generally, this would also need to be memorized work. It can range from a strict metered poetic form to the more broadly prosaic. It does not require a time limit. And while some performance poetry can become a successful Poetry Slam piece, the term reflects a performance that doesn't necessarily receive a score.

Poetry Slam
is the contest of words in performance; set up within accepted parameters, with judges and often, time limits. There is also some sort of prize (often monetary) for the winner at its conclusion. See Poetry Slam Inc. to learn about the inception and worldwide development of Poetry Slam.

The number of times a poet gets up and performs a poem varies from venue to venue, but it is most commonly a three-round event, meaning that the poet must have at least three different poems ready to perform. The winner obviously has gotten the highest score at the final round.

Run-Off Slam
Begun at the Nuyorican by Keith Roach, the Run-Off Slam happens after the Grand Slam Finale. There are usually at least three of these, happening in the subsequent weeks right after the Grand Slam Finale. Winners of these Slams become teammates on the Nuyorican National Team that year. Keith's original thinking was that the Run-Off would enable poets who had been Slamming throughout the year to participate in the National Team experience.

Sacrificial Goat
At the National Poetry Slam event, this is called the "Calibration Poet", but at the Nuyorican, we call these poets "Sacrifical Goats" and it means the same thing. This is a poet who is not participating in the Poetry Slam that night, but comes up at the start of the show as a way to give inexperienced judges a chance to practice their scoring skills before the "real" Slammers for that evening perform.

The person at any Poetry Slam who adds up the judge's scores and reduces them to a single number for each round. This can be a volunteer from the audience, or someone assigned in the job for the evening by the SlamMaster. This person is not a judge or a performing poet that evening. At the Nuyorican, a judge is simply an audience member, and hopefully decent at adding up numbers. No other criteria is necessary.

Poetry Slam scoring is similar to Olympic scoring, at least that's how we do it at the Nuyorican, and how it is done at the National event. Five scores between 0 and 10 are received after each poet performs; lowest and highest are eliminated, and the three central scores are added up to produce the final score for that round. Decimals are really critical in Poetry Slam. Slams are often won or lost by tenths of a point!

Semi-Final Slam
Nuyorican Poets Cafe has five of these per year, to come up with the five finalists who will be in the Grand Slam Finale. Each winner of the Semi-Finals automatically gets to participate in the Grand Slam Finale.

Slam Open
The Slam Open is consistently accessible to public participation. You simply come in and sign the book. The first 20 names compete. Winner of this evening is offered a chance to participate in the Friday Night Slam. This is the first open door to the Nuyorican Poetry Slam but it's also useful for experienced Slammers who might use it to practice a new piece in front of a live set of judges and an audience.

The role is many things to many people across the Poetry Slam scene, but at the Nuyorican, it means that this person is in charge of the Friday Night Slam in a consistent, ongoing manner, over a significant period of time. This person books Spotlight Poets for the evening, finds audience judges each Friday Night and is involved in the National Poetry Slam event each year. The SlamMaster may also be known as the emcee, host, even curator. And FYI, women SlamMasters at the Nuyorican tend to call themselves "SlamMistress."

Spoken Word
encompasses a broad area, and includes Slam Poetry and Performance Poetry. Storytelling and novel-reading, political speeches even...all considered Spoken Word. Reading a poem, (contrasted to "performing it") is obviously a Spoken Word event.

Time Limit
There is no time limit to the length of a Slam Poet's performance at the Nuyorican, but through the years, a three-minute time limit has been strictly enforced at the National competition, with points taken off your score if you exceed. But Performance Poets, for instance don't focus on keeping it within a time limit, as their work may not be created for Poetry Slam alone.

Most artists interested in the Poetry Slam model will tend to keep their pieces within a reasonable amount of "short-attention-span" time and their goal is generally the three-minute time frame.