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'We encourage the audience to boo, jeer and heckle': competitions that reward bad poetry

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Poets have a reputation for taking themselves too seriously. The anti-slam throws that stereotype out the window

Jakob Boyd’s whole body folds around the microphone. The words come out of him like a heartbeat – slow and steady – and then they rise. He whispers about drinking out of a goon bag late at night. He shouts when talking about traffic and urban sprawl. His shouts get lost in the cheering.

The event Boyd is performing at is not quite a poetry slam. Yes, its loud – it’s held in a pub – and promotes audience participation. In a regular poetry slam, the poet often has a time limit and cannot perform with props, costumes or music. Judges are selected randomly from the audience and, at the end of the competition, the poet with the highest score wins.

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It’s really rewarding in such a socially performative age to give people the chance to let go, to invite ridicule

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