National Poetry Slam Reveals Six Must-See Matches

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World's largest poetry competition kicks off in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville this week.

National Poetry Slam, poetry, Boston

A microphone at the National Poetry Slam waits patiently for the arriving poets. Photo by Richard Beaubien.

The National Poetry Slam has identified six key matches that are shaping up to be electrifying.

The National Poetry Slam kicks off in Boston on August 13, and at the heart of the week-long festival are the first three nights of preliminary competition. Over these three nights, all 72 teams will get a chance to prove they’ve got the stanzas to be the champions. Each team will compete in two separate, four-team bouts, with the highest scorers advancing to semi-finals on Friday, Aug. 16.

With poets coming from around the country and record crowds expected, all of the matches promise to be unique and exciting. Slam fans will get to hear a variety of teams with voices unique to other regions, and will discover rising stars that might otherwise never venture to New England. There are seven venues to choose from over the three nights. The ambiance ranges from polished theaters and lecture spaces, to slam’s traditional home: the down-and-dirty dive bar.

It’s hard to go wrong during preliminaries, but for those intimidated by the schedule the staff at the National Poetry Slam has identified six key matches that are shaping up to be electrifying. Here are the highlights:

1. Tuesday, August 13, 7 p.m. at Lesley University’s Marran Theater, 34 Mellen St., Cambridge. Competing teams: Bay Area Unified (San Francisco, CA) vs. Slam Free or Die (Manchester, NH) vs. WU-Slam (St. Louis, MO) vs. Vancouver Poetry Slam (Vancouver, BC). If you're looking for a taste of everything, this bout has it all. Bay Area Unified is an all-star team comprised of the best that all of the Bay’s slams have to offer. Vancouver has a reputation as one of the most off-beat teams in slam. The veteran youth poets from WU Slam have a knack for group work, and New Hampshire’s own Slam Free or Die is packed with local favorites.

2. Tuesday, August 13, 9 p.m. at Cambridge College, 1000 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.
Competing teams: Flagslam (Flagstaff, AZ) vs. Nuyorican (New York, NY) vs. Mill City Slam (Lowell, MA) vs. Toronto Poetry Slam (Toronto, ON). The Nuyorican is the winningest team in the history of slam, but can they prevail against a Lowell team full of hometown heroes? Or will the teams from far-off Arizona and Toronto blindside them both?

3. Wednesday, August 14, 7 p.m. at Johnny D's Uptown Restaurant and Music Club, 17 Holland St., Somerville. Competing teams: NYC louderARTS (New York, NY) vs. Art Amok! (Atlanta, GA) vs. Writing Wrongs (Columbus, OH) vs. Salt City Slam (Salt Lake City, UT). If you’re looking for top-notch writing, odds are you’ll find it here. New York’s louderARTS is known for its devastatingly crafted personal work, while Atlanta’s Art Amok! identifies as a populist, socially-engaged scene. Salt Lake City has made Semi-Finals for in each of the past two years, and fans who attended NPS 2011 might remember Writing Wrongs for its appearance on finals stage.

4. Wednesday, August 14, 9 p.m. at Lesley University’s Marran Theater, 34 Mellen St., Cambridge. Competing teams: SlamNuba (Denver, CO) vs. ABQ (Albuquerque, NM) vs PuroSlam (San Antonio, TX) vs. Battle Born (Las Vegas, NV). SlamNuba and ABQ both fared extremely well in their last trip to a Boston NPS in 2011: Albuquerque won Group Piece Finals, while the Denver team won the whole tournament. But don’t count out PuroSlam, one of the most venerable slam venues in the country, and the surprisingly sincere Las Vegas underdogs.

5. Thursday, August 15, 7 p.m. at Davis Square Theatre, 255 Elm St., Somerville. Providence Poetry Slam (Providence, RI) vs. Soapboxing (St. Paul, MN) vs. HawaiiSlam (Honolulu, HI) vs. Elevated! (San Diego, CA). If you’re looking for regional diversity, this is the bout to catch, with teams from the East Coast (NPS 2011 finalists Providence) to the west (2013 West Coast Championship finalist Elevated!), to the even-further-west (Hawaii). Smack dab in the middle is perennial powerhouse Soapboxing, which won back-to-back NPS championships in 2009 and 2010.

6. Thursday, August 15, 9 p.m. at Johnny D's Uptown Restaurant and Music Club, 17 Holland St., Somerville. New Orleans Slam (New Orleans, LA), Slam New Orleans, aka SNO (Also New Orleans, LA), Portland Poetry Slam (Portland, OR), Steel City Slam (Pittsburgh, PA). Can reigning champion Slam New Orleans take out the cross-town rival that knows their work inside and out? They’ll both face some fierce competition from the hip kids from Portland and the punks from Pittsburgh.

For the complete schedule, tickets, and everything else you need to know about the tournament, visit

Additional resources:
National Poetry Slam on Facebook:
National Poetry Slam tickets:
National Poetry Slam blog:

About the National Poetry Slam
The National Poetry Slam is the biggest team poetry slam in the world. Held every year since 1990, it is the definitive showcase for competitive performance poetry. Teams of the best poets from around the country come to compete for the national championship, during a week-long festival celebrating the dynamic oral tradition slam has fostered. Through several nights of competition, poets will perform either individually or in “group pieces” with their teammates, in the hopes of impressing judges randomly selected from the audience. This year a record number of teams is expected for the 24th annual National Poetry Slam in Boston, Massachusetts. For more information, visit Follow NPS2013 on Twitter @nationalslam, or on Facebook at

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Michelle Bary