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3 Rounds up to 16 poets



Each round is scored individually. Accumulative score is considered only in the case of a tie in the 3rd round. 



Cincinnati Poetry Slam Rules are adapted from Poetry Slam, Inc as follows:


1. Each poem must be the poet's original work.

2. Each poet gets three minutes (plus a ten-second grace period) to read/recite one poem. If the poet goes over time, .5 points will be deducted from the total score per every 10 seconds over the allotted grace period.

3.The Poet may not use props, costumes or musical instruments.

4. Of the scores the poet received from the five judges, the high and low scores are dropped and the middle three are added together, giving the poet a total of 0-30


Cincinnati Poetry Slam Regulations are adapted from Austin Poetry Slam as follows:


No Props

Generally, poets are allowed to use their given environment and the accouterments it offers – microphones, mic stands, the stage itself, the aisle – as long as these accouterments are available to other competitors as well.

Accidental Props

The rule concerning props is not intended to squelch the spontaneity, unpredictability, or on-the-fly choreography that people love about the slam; its intent is to keep the focus on the words rather than objects. Teams or individuals who inadvertently use a prop (for example, a timely yet unwitting grab at a necklace) can be immediately penalized two points if the bout manager deems the effect of the violation to have been appreciable, but sufficiently lacking in specific intent.

Intentional Props

Teams or individuals whose use of props in a poem appears to be more calculating and the result of a specific intent to enhance, illustrate, underscore, or otherwise augment the words of the poem will be disqualified from the slam determined by the bout manager.


No Music

No musical instruments or pre-recorded music. You may use music created with your own body.

No Costumes 

If you wear something all day, and it is a part of your regular wardrobe, you can wear it when performing your poem. Be careful… if you direct attention to the article of clothing it will become a prop, and will be breaking the prop rule and cause for disqualification determined by the bout manager. Thus, you can’t change into a special outfit for a specific poem. 

Internet Connectivity (virtual slam only)

If the audience cannot see or hear the poet, the host reserves the right to intervene, and the poem may receive lower scores.  Poets please check the mic and camera on your computer before the event, and confirm that your internet connection is stable. You can check these things in the zoom interface by logging on early.

Complaints and Challenges

All complaints concerning possible breaking of the rules or challenges concerning performance time (kept by a timekeeper) and/or total score (kept by a scorekeeper) should be directed to the bout manager, who will be clearly identified, immediately after the round in which one has a discrepancy. No complaint or challenge will be consider after the slam had ended.


There will be a random drawing before each round.


The Three-Minute Rule

Performances will be timed by a timekeeper. The time begins when the performance begins, which may well be before the first utterance is made. A poet is certainly allowed several full seconds to adjust the microphone and get them-self settled & ready, 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.” After three minutes, there is a 10-second grace period (up to and including 3:10.00). Starting at 3:10.01, a penalty is automatically deducted from each poet’s score according to the following schedule:


Time Penalty Deductions 

3:10 and under

no penalty

3:10.01 – 3:20


3:20.01 – 3:30


3:30.01 – 3:40


3:40.01 – 3:50


and so on

[-0.5 for every 10 seconds over 3:10]

A chart explaining time penalties.


1st, 2nd & 3rd place prizes will be awarded

to the poets with the top three scores after round 3.


1st = $500 in-person or $300 for virtual

2nd = $125

3rd = $75


DuWaup's Cincinnati Poetry Slam strives to be a  “safe space” for participants and spectators alike. We do not tolerate nor condone the promotion of hate in any form.  If a poem is deemed to be purposely intimidating or threatening toward any individual or group, the poem will not be scored and the person in violation will be disqualified from the slam.


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