Many are familiar with the concept of a poetry slam, even if they have never attended one. Poets perform their works aloud before a live audience. Randomly selected judges rate the performers, who advance through rounds until one is crowned the champion. The poetry slam movement is relatively young, but in Words in Your Face, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz relates the history of this cultural phenomenon in great detail—from its beginnings in Chicago and New York clubs in the late 1980s, to the creation of the National Poetry Slam, to its popularization by MTV, Lollapalooza, and HBO’s Def Poetry, and beyond. The book is divided into four parts, each covering a major wave of the poetry slam movement. Each part contains multiple short chapters, which alternate between historical narratives, interviews with major figures, and “sidebar” chapters on slam rules, lingo, stereotypes, etc. The book captures the diversity of the poetry slam movement which has, from the outset, involved all ethnic groups, ages, and sexual orientations. While the poetry slam movement is associated with hip-hop, they are not synonymous, and the author lays out the nuances of the relationship between them. Avid poetry jam fans may want to read this book cover-to-cover, but the concise chapters interspersed with plenty of photographs make this an easy book for a casual reader to “read at” as well.
Words in Your Face and the books shown below can all be found on the NEW BOOKS DISPLAY at the Prairie State College Library.