These rules are borrowed and modified from PSI/ACUI.

A. Poems and Performance

1.      Poems can be on any subject and in any style.

2.      Each poet must perform work that they have created.

3.      No props. Generally, poets are allowed to use their given environment and the accoutrements it offers — microphones, mic stands, the stage itself, chairs on stage, a table or bar top, the aisle — as long as these accoutrements are available to other competitors as well. The rule concerning props is not intended to squelch the spontaneity, unpredictability, or on-the-fly choreography that people love about the slam; its intent is to keep the focus on the words rather than poets who inadvertently use a prop (for example, a timely yet unwitting grab at a necklace, directly referencing the paper they are reading from, etc.). Poets can be immediately penalized two points if the emcee of the bout deems the effect of the violation to have been appreciable but sufficiently lacking in specific intent. A formal protest need not be lodged before the emcee can penalize a poet or team in this way; however, the decision of the emcee can be appealed after the bout. Poets whose use of props in a poem appears to be more calculating and the result of a specific intent to enhance, illustrate, underscore, or otherwise augment the words of the poem will be given a retroactive score for the poem equal to two points less than the lowest scoring poem in that bout. This deduction, which can only be applied after a formal protest has been lodged against the offending team, will not be made by the emcee, but by the protest committee assembled for this purpose.
     i.  Body parts are not considered props. Hair, hijabs, tattoos, mobility, and other accessibility devices are considered body parts and are therefore not considered props.  

4.      Poets may not use musical instruments or pre-recorded music.

5.      No costumes. Further clarification of this rule was considered, but rejected as being niggling and ultimately unnecessary. The rule stands as is: no costumes. Deductions for costumes function the same as for props.

B. Sampling 

1.      It is acceptable for poets to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise "signify on" the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called "sampling") in their own work. However, if a poet replicates another poet's words (i.e. reciting multiple lines verbatim), they should receive the same repercussion as if using a prop. This includes a retroactive score of two points less than the lowest scoring poem in that bout following a formal protest and enforced by the protest committee.

C. The No Repeat Rule

1.      Poems may not be repeated at any point in the tournament, except for poems performed in the Last Chance Slam or performed for tiebreakers (tiebreaker poems may not have been previously used in the tournament, but may be used again in a normal bout later on).

D. The Three-Minute Rule

1.      No performance should last longer than three minutes.

2.      There are two audience engagements that start the time: first utterance and performance gesture. First utterance includes the first word or sound of the poem that engages the audience or bout officials. First utterance does not include: (i) speaking or making noise into a microphone in a manner intended to check the microphone; or (ii) bodily functions such as coughing, sneezing, throat clearing, etc. Performance gesture includes "performative" body movement and physical reaction/recognition toward any audience member by the performer(s). Performance gesture does not include: adjusting the microphone, arranging clothing, rubbing of the face, or any other action done in preparation for the performance. For a group piece, a performance gesture does not include: (i) a preparation to nod to fellow teammates on stage; or (ii) a tap on the thigh to establish pace/start the poem. With these guidelines in mind, the beginning and end of a poem's time is ultimately at the discretion of the timekeeping officials. If poets have concerns regarding time, they should seek out both the bout manager and timekeeper to clarify before the bout begins.

    i. In relation to performance gesture, time may also start following an excessively long preparation period prior to any utterance or perceived gesture.  Timekeepers will be prompted to begin time after poets are perceived as ready. 

    ii. When time begins, the timekeeper will raise their hand to signify the start of time.   
    iii. After three minutes, there is a 10-second grace period (up to and including 3:10.00). Starting at 3:10.01, a penalty is automatically deducted from each poet's overall score according to the following schedule:

o   3:10 and under = no penalty

o   3:10.01–3:20 = -0.5

o   3:20.01–3:30 = -1.0

o   3:30.01–3:40 = -1.5

o   3:40.01–3:50 = -2.0

o   and so on [-0.5 for every 10 seconds over 3:10]


3.      At 4 minutes, poets will be advised to exit the stage. If the poet refuses to exit the stage after being prompted by Bout Manager and their Team or Coach, their respective team will experience disqualification.  

4.      The announcement of the time penalty and its consequent deduction will be made by the emcee or scorekeeper after all the judges have reported their scores. The judges should not even be told that a poet went over time until it is too late for them to adjust their scores.

5.      There will be one to two timekeepers recording time for all bouts. The shortest time will be determined as the official time.

E. Team Pieces

1.      Teams may have up to five members. The fifth member will serve as a "floating" member who can compete in any bout.

2.      Teams may not repeat primary authorship in a bout.

3.      All five poets may appear on stage in a bout.

4.      Duos, trios, and quartets (otherwise known as team, group, or collaborative pieces) are allowed, even encouraged, so long as all of the primary authors perform them. Five-person group pieces will not be allowed (all five poets on a team can appear in a bout, just not all at once). The poet who offers up their individual spot on stage in order to accommodate a group piece must be one of the primary authors of that piece. 

5.      Every team member who performs during a bout must be a primary author on at least one of their team’s poems performed during that bout.

6.      A group piece with only one primary author must only and always be performed during that writer/performer’s slot.

F. Identification of Primary Author in Group Pieces

1.      In an effort to promote and encourage collaboration, teams using group pieces are not required to declare at the start of the poem which primary author’s slot the poem will go in. This does not change the standing rule that every poem needs a different declared primary author, rather it enables greater flexibility among teams that use group pieces. At the end of each bout all coaches or team leaders must meet with the bout manager to confer and identify that 4 slots were filled by 4 different primary authors, including for all team pieces performed in the bout.

2.      Should a team decide to declare a group piece's primary author at the start of the poem rather than declare it as a group piece, for reasons such as starting the poem with the appearance of an individual poem and "surprising" the audience by adding more poets throughout the piece, or otherwise, the primary author slot for that poem must be assigned to the originally announced poet.

G. Bout Rotations

1.      The following will be the bout order for poetry bouts consisting of 4 teams with 4 rounds/poets per bout. Bout order will be drawn several minutes prior to the start of the slam and requires a coach or team leader from each team to join the bout manager and /or emcee to complete and confirm a random drawing.

 4 Team Bout Order:

2. After each four-poem round, an indie poet will perform (so four total in each bout). Their scores will not affect the team rankings, but will be factored into individual rankings. The indie poets will draw their slots/rounds concurrent to the team draw.

3. In the event of a team dropping out too late to be replaced, draw will happen as normal and the indie poets will perform during the missing team’s slots (instead of at the end of each round). In such a case, their scores WILL be compiled and affect the other teams’ rankings – so, for example, if the indie poets totaled the third-highest total score of the bout, the other three teams would receive rankings of 1,2 and 4.

         4. In the event of a serious technical/audio disruption, fire alarm or any extended interruption of the bout, the emcee will introduce another sacrificial poet in order to recalibrate the bout prior to formally getting on to the next poet in the bout. If a poem is interrupted by such to the degree that judging cannot occur, the poet will be allowed to perform again after the interruption.

H. Judging

1.      It is expected prior to the start of a bout, the bout manager or emcee will orchestrate a formal "look see" with the selected judges, coaches, and all the competitive team members. This may be done either by having all judges come on stage or bringing all judges and teams into the hallway or corner of the room. All coaches and competitive team members must agree on the selected judges prior to the start of the slam.

2.      All efforts shall be made to select five judges who will be fair. However, should it be impossible to select five impartial judges after following the Protocol for Judge Selection, either by lack of persons or disagreements from the teams during the "look see," three judges may be used rather than five. In this case no scores shall be dropped and these three judges make up the score out of thirty points. This should be the absolute last resort after all of the Protocol for Judge Selection has been followed.

3.      Upon confirmation, the judges will: (i) be given a set of printed instructions on how to judge a poetry slam, (ii) have a private, verbal crash course by the emcee or house manager on the do's and don'ts of poetry slam judging (where they can ask questions), and iii. hear the standardized Official Emcee Spiel (rewritten and tweaked periodically) which, among other things, will apprise the audience of their own responsibilities as well as remind the judges of theirs.

4.      Having heard, read, or otherwise experienced these three sets of instructions; a judge cannot be challenged over a score. Complaints, problems, and/or disagreements regarding the impartiality of the judges should be brought privately to the attention of the emcee or house manager BEFORE the bout begins. The "look see" qualifies as before the bout begins. Having heard and understood the complaint, the house manager or emcee will then make a decision (also privately) that cannot be further challenged.

I. Protocol for Judge Selection

1.      The following protocol shall be used in order to select judges that attempts to be as diverse in race, gender, sexuality, and other identities as possible:

1st–Start with selecting from random audience members in the room or surrounding area.

2nd–Go to event staff not associated with any specific team or engaged in this bout.

3rd–Go to participating volunteer staff members for the bout (suggested in the following order: timekeeper, scorekeeper, or available “runners”).

4th–Go to registered non-competitive poets who came with a team not involved with this bout, but not an active participant for any time.

5th–If necessary use the bout manager

6th–Only as an ABSOLUTE last resort (and with the approval of coaches and team members) should you seek out actual participants of another team. You must ensure that these selected judges are not scheduled to compete against another team in that bout. 

2.      If sufficient judges cannot be found 15 minutes after the scheduled start, a runner must be sent to other rooms in attempt to find judges. A runner may be someone affiliated with the bout oversight who knows about judge selection. For example, it can be the host or timekeeper, but not the bout manager.

3.      Bouts must begin no later than 30 minutes of the scheduled start time.  Therefore near the 20-25 minute mark, the bout managers must resort to exercising even the least preferred options above.

J. Scoring  

1.      The judges will give each poem a score from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest or "perfect" score.

2.      They will be encouraged to use one decimal place to preclude the likelihood of a tie.

3.      Each poem will get five scores unless only three judges could be selected as described under the Judging section.

4.      The high and the low scores will be dropped and the remaining three scores will be added together.

5.      Each poem’s total score will be announced during the bout.

K. In case of a tie

1.      All ties for all ranks in all bouts shall be resolved through a tie-breaking round between the tied teams.

2.      The rule permitting up to five competing poets per team extends to the tie-breaking round. This round is the only instance when a poet may have a second primary authorship slot within a single bout (i.e. a regular bout slot and tie-breaking slot).

3.      In the case of tie between teams for advancement from preliminaries to finals, the point differential system will be used to break said ties. The point differential system measures how close a team came to winning their bout. If two teams are tied with a "4" ranking, for instance (one team finished in second in both prelims, the other finished in first and third place in their bouts), then the tie would be broken be tabulating how far from victory they were: Team A finished in second place in both bouts. They lost bout one by -.6 points and bout two by -1.9 points. Their total point differential is a -2.5. Team B finished in first place in bout one, and third in bout 2. Their differential for bout one is ZERO, their differential for bout three is a -2.2 points. Their total point differential is a -2.2. In this scenario Team B would advance. It rewards teams for winning one or the other bout, and also keeps consistency between bouts by asking teams to compete against their own judges, and no others.

L. Breaking Ties

1.      If, at the conclusion of all rotations in a bout a tie exists for first place, each team tied for first place shall be required to send one more poem to the stage. It may be performed by any poet or poets on the teams who are tied. Teams in the tie breaker will draw for order. Judges will listen to all poems in the tie breaker rotation and at the conclusion of all poems, will vote for the poem they liked the best based on the order of the bout. For example, if a judge preferred the first poem, they would vote 1, second poem they vote 2, etc.

At 3:10, the time at which time penalties would normally occur, the poem will simply be halted by either turning off the microphones, emcee interruption, or some other clear indication that the poem must immediately be stopped. 

If there is a tie for first after the tie-breaker, the teams that are not tied for first after the tie breaker votes are tallied are dropped from the voting, and the judges will be asked to vote again only considering the remaining teams. This is repeated until a winner can be declared.

For example:



Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 9.15.12 PM.png


2.      Eliminate Team C from consideration, because it is really between A & B at this point. Vote again       



M. Getting to Team Finals

1.      If your team places # 1 in both of your preliminary round bouts you earn a “2” (1+1). If you place #1 in your first bout and #4 in your last bout you earn a “5” (1+4). Rank order will determine the top teams who will win berths to finals. Finals will consist of the four best-ranked teams.

2.      Ties will be broken using the point differential system, followed by total points if a tie remains.

N. Getting to Indie Finals

1. Every competing poet (both poets on teams and individual competitors) who performs two individual poems during prelims will be eligible for indie finals. Poets who perform exclusively in a group piece in one or both of their bouts will not be eligible. Some poets may end up performing in both indie and team finals; the no-repeat rule applies across both.

2. Indie rank will be determined by ranks within round. For example, a poet performs in the second round of their Day 1 bout and gets the third-highest score of the five scores in that round—they receive a rank of #3. On day two, they perform in the last round and get the highest score of that round—they receive a rank of #1. Their total indie ranking is #4. As with team finals, “lowest” total rank will determine advancement to indie finals.

3. Indie finals will consist of the eight best-ranking individual poets from prelims. In the case of ties in rank, indie finals may be extended up to ten poets. If ties in rank produce more than ten poets (for example, seven poets have total ranks of 4 or better, and then the next six poets have a rank of 5), overall rank in bouts will be used as a tiebreaker, and the field will again be limited to eight.

O. Protests

1.      A special committee made up of host city members will hear appeals for all protests.

2.      Prior to the start of all bouts, a standardized protest document will be provided to all of the team’s coaches in the designated bout.

3.      The committee will review the protest and available evidence and hear testimonials from the teams directly involved and interview the available bout staff before rendering a decision.

4.      All committee decisions are final and adjustments to scores and rankings will be made and announced as necessary.

5.      Protests related to the finals night bout must be filed via text (with the information below) and sent to the emcee or designated host city official(s) no more than 2 minutes after the conclusion of the last poet’s performance. In respect to the waiting audience, the committee will swiftly but earnestly review the protest and available evidence and hear testimonials from the teams directly involved and interview the available bout staff before rendering a decision. 

Protest Text Format: "This text signifies that I, [name] of team [insert team], am submitting an official protest due to [grievance]. 

6.      Prior to finals, finals teams will be provided the cell phone number for the finals bout manager or another selected staff member. At any time during finals, if a team wishes to file a protest they will send a text indicating their intention to initiate a protest. The time stamp in the text will serve as evidence of when the initial contact is made. The standardized protest document should be completed and submitted 5 minutes or less after to the bout manager.

7.      All committee decisions are final and adjustments to scores and ranking will be made and announced as necessary in the bout.