YELUSWAP Slam Rules & Regulations

Although we don’t emphasize the competition, these are the rules of our slam. Please abide by them to avoid disqualification.

There must be a minimum of four people on each team, a maximum of six. No alternates. All 6 can be on the team.

  • No more than 4 poets on the stage or on the mic at any time (during the slam). By “on the stage,” we mean as any part of the poem including from the stage, backstage, or the audience.
  • Team members must be between 13 – 19 years old (cannot turn 20 before August 3, 2019)
  • Each competing or non-competing team must have one adult chaperone/coach (over the age of 21) for every 4 youth. (If you bring more than 4 youth you need an additional chaperone)
  • Teams must prepare at least one individual poem per team member.
  • All of the work/poems used in the poetry slam must be original writing by the individual(s) performing. Teams that plagiarize will be disqualified. Plagiarism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is to steal and pass off (the ideas and words of another) as one’s own; use (another’s production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
  • During the Quarterfinals and Finals, we will not announce the scores to the audience. Instead, coaches will receive a text message at the end of each round with the scores after they have been calculated.
  • All teams are required to have at least two group pieces constructed and performed as duets, trios, or quartets. Each performing member of a group piece must have participated in the writing of the group piece.
  • Teams must perform at least one group piece during each bout.
  • Props may not be used in the Slam. Props are defined as any non-body piece of equipment and do not include the mics, the mic chord, the wall, the stage, or any other item that is a part of the stage. Musical accompaniment (excluding mouth / body percussion) may not be used in the poetry slam.
  • During the 1st, 2nd, & 4th rounds of each bout, each individual and group piece must be under 3 minutes and 30 seconds in length. Teams will enjoy a 10 second grace period after which scores will be penalized .5 for every 10 seconds beyond the allotted time.
  • Lightning Round: During the 3rd round of Quarterfinals (not Finals), each individual and group poem must be under 1 minute and 30 seconds. Teams will enjoy a 10 second grace period after which scores will be penalized .5 for every 10 seconds beyond the allotted time.
  • If individuals or teams go over the time limits, their scores will be penalized .5 for each 10 seconds beyond the regulated time for that round.
    • Round 1, 2 & 4: 3:40 – no penalty / 3:41 to 3:50 – .5 point penalty / 3:51 – 3:59 – 1 point penalty, etc
    • 3rd round: 0:00 to 1:40 – no penalty / 1:41 to 1:50 – .5 point penalty / 1:51 to 1:60 – 1 point penalty, etc.
    • The official clock is managed by the time keeper and verified by the bout manager.
  • 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 towards 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. 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 the bout manager to clarify before the bout begins.
  • There is no censorship whatsoever. However, we strongly discourage hate speech of any kind. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment to share stories without degrading, mocking, or threatening groups of people. In regard to violence, and sexually explicit content, we recommend teams consider how their work can impact this particular space and audience. Profanity may not be included in any poems performed during any bouts.


  • Teams as a whole cannot repeat poems during Quarterfinals. Finalists will be allowed to perform their best pieces regardless of if they have performed them in Quarterfinals of the poetry slam. Bring your best pieces to the Finals.

Quarterfinal Bouts

  • Each team will participate in TWO Quarterfinal bouts and 4 teams move on to the Grand Slam Finals.
  • Bouts are 4 rounds each and will have a scorekeeper/timekeeper, bout manager, host and MC.
  • The Slam will be judged by a mixed panel of poets, adults, and young people who are in no way affiliated with the teams who participate in the Slam. Many judges will be pre-selected and some may come from the audience.
  • Team bouts will be drawn randomly. Quarterfinal bouts will consist of four to five participating teams. Finals will consist of four participating teams.
  • Bout order is drawn before the start of the bout. Teams draw either an A, B, C, D, or E. bout order goes as follows:
    • Round 1 – Team A, Team B, Team C, Team D, Team E
    • Round 2 – Team B, Team C, Team D, Team E, Team A
    • Round 3 – Team C, Team D, Team E, Team A, Team B
    • Round 4 – Team D, Team E, Team A, Team B, Team C
  • Every member of the team must be physically present and checked in with the Bout Manager at least 15 minutes before their bout begins.
  • After each bout, each team will earn a place ranking of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in order of high to low score. At the conclusion of the Quarterfinals, we will add each team’s rankings for a cumulative rank score (e.g. if a team places 1st in their bout, and 2nd in their second bout, their cumulative rank score is 3).
  • In the event of a tie in a Quarterfinal bout, tying teams will receive the lowest rank score possible. The rank score for the other teams within the bout will not be affected. (For example, if teams A and B tie for first, both teams receive a rank score of 1, while teams C and D still receive rank scores of 3 and 4.)
  • The 4 teams with the lowest cumulative rank score will advance to the Finals.
  • In the event that there is a tie in cumulative rank score, tie breakers will be determined according to the point differential system. The point differential system measures how close a team came to winning their bout ( is just as important to score high in your bout, as it is to win or place high in your bout.). If two teams are tied with a «4» ranking, for instance (one team finished in second in both Quarterfinal bouts, 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 two. Their differential for bout one is ZERO, their differential for bout three is -2.2 points. Team B’s 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.
  • If a team wants to lodge a protest against another team for an infraction of any of the rules, it is the responsibility of the protesting team to contact a Bout Manager BEFORE the conclusion of the bout. Depending on the severity of the violation, a follow-up meeting will be held to determine feasible next steps. When protesting, please ensure the violation is clear, and be prepared to refer to the YELUSWAP Rules document. Also, remember that we work to value our community over the competitive nature of poetry slam. Therefore, we appreciate anyone who calls attention to rule violations, and also want to emphasize that “the points are not the point.”
  • No recording equipment is allowed during the bouts except by The Write and others authorized to film. Film or audio recordings cannot be used as evidence in any protest or grievance with regard to the Poetry Slam.


  • There will be a collective content/trigger warning (TW) issued by the MC at the top of the bout.
  • Poets are allowed to deliver a TW themselves, but time will start at first utterance or audience engagement as specified earlier in the rules.


  • We encourage you to become intimately familiar with the poems you will compete with. Memorization is not required but you do want to really bust your piece. Rehearse! Know your poems.
  • Judges will be given criteria for judging on both writing and performance quality, and will serve more as supporters of young writers than judges. This will be as standardized as possible, but like each of us, judges come with their own biases for and against certain topics and styles. Remember, the standard is yourself. Be your own best “judge.”
  • Judges will be seated together at a table in front of the stage.
  • Take responsibility for your words. Art impacts audience. Set your intention with the stage you are performing on in mind.
  • Be respectful of yourself, the youth writing community, and the city and community you represent.
  • Have fun in this process. If you don’t get high scores, so what? It says nothing about your abilities and potential as a writer, thinker, and cultural leader.