15 October 2009

Competition Makes You Better

by Michael DeVoe

Competition makes you better. Playing sports, creating a business, getting good grades, and especially in art. Competing for arbitrary points, money, customers, audience members, fans, youtube views, or pride; it doesn’t matter they will all make you better. Here are a few ways that competing in poetry slams will make you a better poet.

Poetry slams are like crack, addicting and deadly.

Comic by Chuck Ingwersen
A good slam is loud, competitive, and fun. The crowd is yelling while you’re trying to remember words, amens are thrown from the back row and the little lady in the front wont stop screaming, “No he didn’t” Think of it like 8-mile with points and no drive-bys, but possibly with sirens driving by the open window of the bar. If you don’t know your poem good luck, but if you can continue to recite your poem through a hail of loud, praise or not, you’ll be able to handle that piece in a feature any time.

When you hear poets so much better than you for the first time, you either quit, or get better. I chose to get better, I’ve seen a lot kids scratch their name of the list and go home. The challenge of beating better writers should inspire you to pick up your pencil and see how much better you get every time. Searching your vocab for better rhymes, finding new ways to alliterate, painting the most obscure image just to see if you can make it relate. Take the challenge.

Winning slams is a little bit about your writing and a lot a bit about your acting. This was hard for me because I’m really shy, I just wanted to get up and say poem and go away, but to win a slam you have to get loud, emotional, and animated. It’s as much about rhyme schemes as it is about how much your hands move. Your look can emphasise a phrase, your tone can make a line, and crowd involvement makes a score. The louder you can get the crowd the better the piece was for a slam and the higher your score will be, whether they laugh, cry, yell, hate, or go to church their volume is as important as yours.

Lastly when you’re around other poets, especially the good ones, ask for advice. The best resource you can find on poetry the scene, the business, the talent, or the skill, is other poets, and a slam is full of them take advantage. The first slam I ever won was a week after asking the best poet I know in real life how he won slams, he told me to animate my poems with hand gestures, eyebrows, and tone inflections. Taking his advice was the best move of my career, I won the next slam I was in, and am a better poet all around for it.

If you think you’re a good poet, prove it, your three minutes starts now

Write, Love, SLAM.


  1. Congrats Micheal. I think you are on to something. Competition can be a great learning experience whether or not you win.

  2. I definitely agree with this. It can certainly be applied to just about anything, especially writing.