1.11: Instructions for Poetry Slam Judges
What do hand those judging your slam
"So you're judging a Poetry Slam"
Written instructions for judges
You have been enlisted in the service of poetry. This is supposed to be fun, and
we don't expect you to be an expert, but we can offer certain guidelines that
might help to make this more fun for everyone involved, especially you.
We use the word "poem" to include text and performance. Some say you should assign a certain number of points for a poem's literary merit and a certain number of points for the poet's performance. Others feel that you are experiencing the poem only through the
performance, and it may be impossible to separate the two. You will give each
poem only one score. Trust your gut; and give the better poem the better score.
Be fair. We all have our personal
prejudices, but try to suspend yours for the duration of the slam. On the other
hand, it's okay to have a prejudice that favors the true and the beautiful over
the mundane and superficial, the fascinating and enchanting over the boring and
pedestrian. It's hard not to be influenced by the audience, but remember that in
a quiet poem, the audience has no way to communicate what they're experiencing.
Remember, Always try to give the better poem the better score!
The audience may boo you, that's their prerogative; as long as the better poem gets the better score, you're doing your job well. Be consistent with yourself. If you give the first poem a seven and the other judges give it a nine, that doesn't mean you should give the
second poem a nine unless it's a lot better than the first poem. In fact, if
it's not as good as the first poem, we count on you to give it a lower score.
Although the high and low scores will be thrown out, don't ever make a joke out of your score thinking that it doesn't really matter. A poem about geometry does not automatically deserve pi as a score. Nor does one about failing a breathalyser test deserve a 0.08. Your
scores may rise as the night progresses. That's called "Score Creep."
As long as you stay consistent, you're doing your job well.
The poets have worked hard to get here; treat them with respect. They are the show, not you (although there could be no show without you). All of us thank you for having the courage to put your opinions on the line.