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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 accouterments it offers, such as microphones, mic stands, the stage itself, chairs on stage, a table or bar top, the aisle as long as these accouterments are available to other competitors as well.  Individuals whose use of props in a poem appears to be more calculated and the result of a specific intent to enhance, illustrate, underscore, or otherwise augment the words of the poem will have 2 points deducted from their score. This deduction, which can only be applied after a formal protest has been lodged against the offending poet, will not be made by the MC, but by the Protest Committee.

4) No musical instruments or pre-recorded music, a poem which violates this rule will be assessed a score of zero.

5) No costumes. The Protest Committee may apply a two-point deduction for violation of the costume rule.



It is acceptable for a poet to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise “signify on” the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called “sampling”) in the poets own work.

The Repeat Rule

A single poem performed during preliminary bouts may be repeated on finals. The finals time limit of 3 minutes per round with a 20 second grace period will still apply.

The Time Limit

No performance should last longer than the time limit specified for the rotation. Time begins when the performance begins, which may be before the first utterance is made. A poet is certainly allowed several full seconds to adjust the microphone and get settled, but as soon as they make a connection with the audience (“Hey look, she’s been standing there for 10 seconds and hasn’t even moved”), the timekeeper can start the clock. The poet does not have an unlimited amount of “mime time.” Poets with ambiguous beginnings and endings to their performances should seek out the timekeeper at each venue to settle on a starting & ending time. After x minutes, there is a 10-second grace period (for example: (in the 3 minute rotation) up to and including 3:10:00). Starting at one hundredth of a second over the grace period, a penalty is automatically deducted from each poet’s overall score according to the following schedule: Where x is the time limit for the rotation:

x:10 and under no penalty
x:10:01 x:20 -05
x:20:01 x:30 -1.0
x:30:01 x:40 -1.5
x:40:01 x:50 -2.0
and so on [-0.5 for every 10 seconds over x:10]

An additional 10 seconds is permitted in the finals without penalty.

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

Maximum Time Limit

After one minute beyond the time limit for the round, only the MC must stop a poet from continuing to perform.

Influencing the Crowd Before the Bout Begins

Poets are allowed to talk casually with anyone in the crowd before the bout begins (except the judges, if they have already been chosen). They are not, however, allowed to give anything to the audience or have anyone do this for them. Furthermore, inside the venue (in the presence or within earshot of the audience) they must not act in any way that would make more of an impression than another competitor waiting for the competition to begin. Poets who violate this rule will be given one warning by the MC, Bout Manager, or house manager. Further violation will result in a two-point penalty for that poet’s score.

The Individual Rule

IWPS is an individual competition. Any less than genuine effort to elicit a response from the audience performed by anyone other than the performer may result in the poet’s disqualification. Poets are cautioned to warn their entourage to make no attempt to sway audience or judges on their behalf.

Bout Draw
A poet arriving later than the bout draw will be assigned the one. If more than one poet arrives late to the bout draw, then they will be assigned the earliest slots based on their arrival time or random draw

Anyone aged 18 and older is eligible to compete.

Preliminary Bout Structure
Each poet reads two poems on each preliminary night.

On each night of bouts, the order in which the poets perform in both the 1st and 2nd rounds is randomly assigned by a draw. Each bout consists of ten poets and a calibration poet for each round.

Poets read a 4-minute (or less) poem in the 1st round. In the 2nd, they read a 1-minute (or less) poem. On the 2nd night of competition, poets will read against a different slate of poets and most of them will be in a different venue. In the 1st round, they will read a 2 - minute (or less) poem. In the 2nd round, they will read a 3 minute (or less) poem.

At the conclusion of each poem, the poet will receive a ranking of 1-10 based on placement within competition groups.

All poets perform first round, then all poets in same group perform second round with calibration between rounds.


After the preliminary bouts are completed, the poets with the highest scores and ranks advance to the finals. The poet next in line for Finals is designated the calibration poet. All poems in the finals are 3 -minute (or less) poems, with a 20 second grace period. A single poem performed during preliminary bouts may be repeated on Finals. Finals for the Individual World Poetry Slam will include the top 14 scoring and ranking poets

There will be 2 sacrificial/calibration poets before finals begins, from the next two ranks of poets who didn’t make finals (for instance, if there are 14 finalists, poets ranked 15 and 16 will be invited to be the sacrificial poets at finals. All finalists will read in the 1st round; the 7 poets with the highest scores move on to the second round. These 7 poets read another poem and the top 4 go to the final round. These 4 poets will each read 1 more poem, and the high score of that round is the Individual World Poetry Slam Champion. If there is a tie between the top 2 poets, they read 1 more poem in a sudden death match, or they agree to share the title. In a sudden death match, judges indicate which poet they prefer by choosing one poet or the other (no scores) and the champion is crowned.


All efforts shall be made to select five judges who will be fair. Competing poets and any persons who are associated with a specific poet or group of poets are not eligible to judge.
Once chosen, the judges will: 1) be given a set of printed instructions on how to judge a poetry slam, 2) have a private, verbal crash course by the MC or Bout Manager on the art of poetry slam judging (where they can ask questions), and 3) hear the standardized Official MC Spiel, which, among other things, will apprise the audience of their own responsibilities as well as remind the judges of theirs.

Having heard, read, or otherwise experienced these 3 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 MC or Bout Manager BEFORE the bout begins. Having heard and understood the complaint, the Bout Manager or MC will then make a decision (also privately) that cannot be further challenged.
Replacing a Judge.

In the event that a judge leaves the bout, a replacement judge will be found and a sorbet poet will be selected to share a poem, which will not be scored, and the bout will continue normally. If there are any judging pairs, the pair will be split to replace the missing judge. The poet affected by the judge’s leaving will have the option to repeat their current poem or use a different one, and the poet will have the ability to repeat the initial poem if they advance to Finals or semi-Finals.


The judges will give each poem a score from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest or “perfect” score. They will be encouraged to use 1 decimal place in order to preclude the likelihood of a tie. Each poem will get five scores. The high and the low scores will be dropped and the remaining three scores will be added together.


If, at the conclusion of all rotations in a bout a tie exists, the poets will share the ranking. Ties in the finals are not required to be broken, but if a poet elects to break the tie, the above is the procedure they will use.



The MC will announce to the audience each poet’s name. The MC will also require that all judges hold their scores up at the same time and that no judge changes their score after it is revealed. The MC is expected to move the show along quickly and keep the audience engaged and interested in the competition. Since the MC must be completely impartial, any witty banter directed at individual poets, poems, or scores is inappropriate. Even genuine enthusiasm has to be carefully directed. The safest thing to do is encourage the audience to express their own opinions.



Bout: a competition between two or more poets.
Order: the schematic that determines the order in which poets will read.

Prop: an object or article of clothing introduced into a performance with the effect of enhancing, illustrating, underscoring, or otherwise augmenting the words of the poem.

Rotation: when each poet has read in a bout, the first rotation is over. There are as many rotations in a bout as there are opportunities for each poet to perform.

Round: a complete set of bouts in which every poet that is still eligible to compete does so. Eligibility to compete in successive rounds may be contingent upon success in earlier rounds.

Costume: A costume is any piece of clothing or accessory that is worn on the stage which is not part of the poet’s regular street clothing. A costume is worn to enhance the performance. A clear indication of costume would be something that a poet changes into after arriving at the venue specifically for the poem or if the poet wears a camouflage cap to perform a hunting poem and then takes it off to do a poem where the poet doesn’t portray a hunter. Taking off outerwear (coat, jacket, boots, hat, scarf, etc.) should not be considered when determining costuming.

A Frequently Asked Question

1. Can a poet protest if they do not have a working microphone on stage?
 No, technical difficulties cannot be anticipated, nor can they be immediately fixed. For example, if a mic goes out during a performance it would probably be worse for the performer to have the tech person stop his/her performance to work on the mic.


As MC, it is your job to run the show, and you are therefore responsible for most of the aspects of getting the show going and keeping it successful.

Please be at the venue at least 1 hour before the bout is scheduled 
to start. Check in with the Venue Manager so they know you are there, and with the Bout Manager. The Venue Manager will be certain that all of the volunteers are there and that the sound and light systems are working. The bout Manager will assist you in all of the aspects of getting the show going and of recording all of the times and scores as you progress. 

1 of your primary tasks (with help from the Bout Manager if you choose) is to line up five judges. You should find a fair mix of identities, age ranges and people from a variety of places. Try to line up judges who are sitting in locations spread around the venue. Please be certain to ask the judges a series of questions that will assure you of their impartiality, such as whether they know or have had relations with any of the poets in this bout, been to a slam before and if they have a favorite poet who is going to perform in the bout. In other words, please try to get a pool of judges that will be as fair and impartial as possible. 

Introduce yourself to the scorers/ timekeepers. Let them know how you like to read off the scores from the judges, i.e. low to high, high to low, or most helpful to them if not a problem for you, the 3 middle scores 1st, and then the high and the low, so they have the scores they need to add right away. 

Choose a calibration poet not associated with the tournament. 

The host city will have given prior instruction about who to 

As soon as they are selected, call the judges to the side of the stage 
for a brief meeting. The poets may view the judges at this point to
 see if there are any problems. A poet may not veto a judge but may raise an issue to you before the round starts, upon which you should use your best judgment to decide.

As you begin the rotation, introduce the judges, the scorers, the Bout Manager. Read the Official MC Spiel, and begin with the calibration poet. Be aware that your comments influence the judges (positively or negatively) so try to stay as impartial as possible. 

Once the poetry begins, please keep yourself in position to see and hear the performance on the stage.

If a protest is raised, Tournament Headquarters has a process for resolving this issue, and it will not interfere with the remainder of this round. Advise them to fill out the Protest Form and see the Protest Committee.

Please be familiar with the Protest Process and follow it
 as well as possible. This is our way of trying to deal fairly with all of the issues and also of keeping the performance of poetry as the most important element of the night.


At the conclusion of the bout, please ask the poets to the stage to sign the Bout Manager’s record of the scores.


Also at the end of the Bout, be certain to collect the markers and cards from the judges.


Your job as Bout Manager is to be the right hand of the MC and to be the official record keeper of the bout.

Please be at the venue where you are working at least 1 
hour before the bout is scheduled to begin.


Tell the Venue 
Manager that you are there and find the MC to begin your tasks. 

Locate the scorers/ timekeepers; be sure they are in a workable 
spot for giving the scores to the MC during the show. 

Help the MC line up judges for the bout. 

You will receive a packet of the Official Bout Sheets from the bout 
package or box; give one each to the MC, and the 2 scorekeepers. You should be certain you have a spot where you may write down all of the pertinent information as the bout progresses. You need to be certain that each poet’s name is recorded with the appropriate score. 

Be in the meetings that the MC has with the judges to explain their jobs, and in the meeting the MC has with poets. 

Once the poetry begins, please keep yourself in position to see and hear the performance on the stage, as you are the first level of deciding protests that may be raised. 

Please be familiar with the Protest Process and follow it as well as possible. This is our way of trying to deal fairly with all of the issues and also of keeping the performance of poetry as the most important element of the night. 

At the conclusion of the bout, please be certain the poets sign the Official Bout Sheet with all of the scores and times recorded on it. 

Also at the end of the bout, collect all of the paper work from the scorekeeper/ timers and be sure it coincides with all of the scores that you have recorded. Give all of this paperwork to the Tournament Director. 

Also at the end of the Bout, be certain to collect the score materials from the judges.
If a protest is raised, Tournament Headquarters has a process for resolving this issue, and it will not interfere with the remainder of this round. Advise them to fill out the Protest Form and see the Protest Committee.


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