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Interpersonal Communication 203

Professor Cheryl Wilson
2 November 2015
SlamNation: The Sport of Spoken Word
Before watching the documentary SlamNation: The Sport of Spoken Word the only
exposure I had to poetry slam was through some comedy movies that made fun of it. At first
glance they reminded me of rap battles, but a little more professional and less vulgar. After
watching the documentary it peaked my interest and it seems that the people involved are very
passionate about it. It seems like the poetry gives them a way to vent things and reach out to the
crowd who can relate. They arent just reading poetry, theyre performing their feelings to the
best of their ability. While on stage they use a wide variety of communication skills and
techniques to portray their poetry better and help the crowd really feel it.
One of the first things that I noticed in the film was how passionate the performers were
and how much they vibed and fed off of the crowd. This reminded me of emotional contagion
which can be defined as the process by which emotions are transferred from one person to
another (Alder 124). The crowd would feed off of the performers and then the performers back
off of them. It went back and forth as emotions and excitement climbed. The judges in a lot of
the competitions were chosen from the crowd so having good vibes between the performer and
the crowd was extremely important (SlamNation). Another thing that really added to their
performances was their posture and gestures that they made on stage.
Along with the reciting of their poems, these poets had a whole routine for their
nonverbal communication. Their body orientation, posture, and gestures were all related to their

feelings, performance, and score. Gestures are defined in the text as movement of the hands and
arms and you could really tell when the performers got passionate and really felt what they were
saying based on their harsh arm movements. One of the moments in the film that really brought
the poets nonverbal communication to light was the group performances. These groups of 4
people had complete routines planned out to go along with their performances (SlamNation). It
was like watching choreographed dance with poetry added in. It actually made it interesting to
watch for an outsider looking in and Im sure everyone involved really enjoyed it.
One of the main things that makes these poetry slams seem exciting and entertaining is
the crowd. As I mentioned earlier, the crowd feeds off of the poet and vice versa. The crowd also
participates in all kinds of different listening techniques, some of which include analyzing,
judging, and mindful listening. Mindful listening involves giving careful and thoughtful
attention and responses to the messages received (Alder 220). By watching the film its pretty
apparent that the crowd and other performers pay close attention to what the poets are saying and
doing on stage. Along with mindful listening its safe to assume that the crowd is also analyzing
what is being said and even judging it. At some of the events crowd members are chosen to do
the scoring and this is where the analyzing and judging can be seen concretely being performed
and appearing in the form of score cards (SlamNation). Judging is described in the text as a
response that evaluates the senders thoughts or behaviors in some way (Alder 240). These
responses are seen by a 0-10 grading system that the judges participate in. Some of the
performers arent just there to express themselves and entertain the crowd, but also to score high
and place well in tournaments that are held for slam poetry (SlamNation).
We actually had something similar to this in my English class as a junior in high school.
We didnt participate in a poetry slam, but we had to write poems and they were judged and

scored using analyzing and judging. We had to write poems about something that inspired us and
we then shared them with the class. Afterwards, we had score sheets with a feedback section
where analyzing and judging was done. Along with the analyzing and judging constructive
criticism was given which could fall under advising. Advising in the text is considered being
approached with anothers problem, and to try and help by offering a solution (Alder238). The
exercise wasnt too bad and Id say we learned quite a bit more about poetry, but it was nothing
like a poetry slam.
The slam poets used a wide variety of different types of language during their
performances to portray their poems as best as possible. Two of these types of language would
include abstract and behavioral language. Abstract language is vague in nature, whereas
behavioral language refers to specific things that people say or do (Alder 157). The poets might
even have poems based on these two types of language, one being more abstract while another is
specifics or a specific situation. Another type of language used is emotive language. Emotive
language seems to describe something but actually announces the speakers attitude toward it
(Alder 168). The poets poems describe things to the crowd while at the same time have the
poets own personal feelings and touch involved (SlamNation). The poets are creating their own
poems and performances so it is reasonable to assume they are portraying how they feel on
topics to the audience.
Overall, poetry slam is a great place to find all different forms and styles of
communication. Theres give and take between the performers and the crowd and verbal as well
as nonverbal communication being used. Analyzing and judging are used by the scoring judges
as well as the crowd and other poets in order to relate or help create and criticize the poems
being performed. Between the performances, crowd, and passion put into it I can see why poetry

slam can be called the sport of spoken word (SlamNation). It also seems like slam poetry could
be very entertaining for certain people and help them have a good time, release stress, and learn
about poetry and the sport of it, as well as improve on their communication skills.

Works Cited
Alder, Ronald B.; Proctor II, Russell F.. Looking Out, Looking In 14th Edition. Boston:

2013. Print.

SlamNation: The Sport of Spoken WordEducator's Edition. Films On Demand. Films Media
Group, 1998. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.