NPS Rules

The Rules of the National Poetry Slam

(At least, those we can agree on)

PSI gratefully acknowledges our “Guru of the Gray Area,” Taylor Mali, the primary author of (and some say, impetus for) these rules, as well as the SlamMasters’ Council who developed and adopted them.

I have to submit to much in order to pacify the touchy tribe of poets - Horace, 14 B.C.

These rules have been revised and tweaked at every SlamMasters’ meeting since the first Chicago National Poetry Slam in 1991. Some debates have been ongoing for more than a decade. Loopholes have continually been closed, and many gray areas have been made either black or white. In the process, new loopholes and gray areas were probably created. But the rulebook was never intended to put an end to the healthy controversy that has always been an integral part of the slam. It will always be an attempt to agree on the wording (if not the spirit) of the rules of the National Poetry Slam as well as the consequences and penalties for breaking those rules. All we can hope for is to make the playing field as level as our trust in one another will allow.

These rules, along with the NPS Code of Honour, constitute a body of standards by which we agree to engage each other in this wacky thing we call Poetry Slam.