The Poetry Bodega



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  1. All performances must consist of original work. Sampling is allowed, but plagiarism will not be accepted. If a performer or audience member believes another performer has engaged in plagiarism, they should bring this to the attention of the Aloha Slam organizers immediately. Plagiarism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is to steal and pass off (the ideas and words of another) as one’s own; use (another’s production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source. 

  2. Poets will not be censored in language or subject matter. Hate speech is not allowed, and any accusations of hate speech should be brought to the Aloha Slam organizers.

  3. The timer will begin once the poet begins speaking. This includes introductions of self or of the poem. A “settling in” period for mic adjustment and mental preparation of 10 seconds will be applied. After 10 seconds, the time will begin, even if the poet has not begun speaking. Poets are responsible for ensuring they are ready to perform when it is their turn on stage. Time will begin once the performer engages the audience via their first audience or a performance gesture.

  4. No props. The poet may use anything on the stage that, such as microphones, microphone stands, railings, the wall or the stage, so long as these items are available to all poets. Poets found to be using props will be referred to the Aloha Slam organizers. Those found to be using props will be deducted one full point from their overall score.

  5. No costumes. Costumes may consist of regular clothing, but with the intent to add comprehension to the poem. A poet changing into an outfit for a specific poem may be interpreted as a costume. This rule can also be applied to hairstyles, as applicable. Those found to be using costumes will be deducted one full point from their overall score.

  6. No musical instruments or pre-recorded music. Singing within a poem is allowed, as is other mouth or body percussion. Audience engagement is allowed, but the performer should not pre-arrange musical accompaniment, such as singing from audience members. Those found in violation of this rule will be deducted one full point from their overall score.

  7. One Repeat Allowed. Performers may repeat one poem from a preliminary round in their final stage performance. Performances of more than one repeat will be assessed a score of zero.



  1. The time limit for all bouts of the Aloha Poetry Slam Festival will be 3 minutes with a 10 second grace period. After 3 minutes and 10 seconds, a .5 point penalty will be assessed, and will accumulate for every 10 seconds the poet goes over on time.

  2. A poem of 3 minutes, 11 seconds will receive a penalty of .5 points; 3 minutes, 21 seconds will receive a penalty of 1 point; 3 minutes, 31 seconds will receive a penalty of 1.5 points, etc. 

  3. Objections to assessed penalties should be brought to the Aloha Slam organizers before the end of the bout.

  4. Time will begin once the performer has engaged the audience. See Rule #3 for additional details.



  1. Preliminary bouts will take place over two nights: Thursday and Friday. The 20 competing poets will be separated into two groups of ten, by random drawing of either A or B, to signify the first or second night of prelims. Once divided into groups, poets will draw numbers 1-10 to determine their performance order. All competing poets are required to be present for drawing prior to the start of the first preliminary bout on Thursday November 21st.

  2. Preliminary bouts will consist of two rounds. First round will have all 10 competitors. Second round will have 7 competitors, from which a top five will be announced. Second round order will be determined by random draw.

  3. Preliminary bout scores will be cumulative. Final ranking will be determined by the combined score of the two rounds of the preliminary bout.

  4. Final stage will consist of three rounds. First round: 10 poets. Second round: 5 poets. Third round: 3 poets. Cash prizes will be awarded for the top three poets.

  5. The final bout will use the clean slate system. Preliminary scores will have no bearing on the scores of the final round, but will impact performance order. The highest scoring poet from the preliminary rounds will first choose their place in the performance order, then, all others will be assigned a performance slot in ascending order based on their score, i.e., the lowest scoring poet will go first, and so on. In the event of a tie between the highest scoring performers, the performers will flip a coin or draw numbers to determine order.

  6. Poets need to be present when it is their time to go on stage. Poets who miss their time will be removed from competition, but may still perform sacrificial poets.

  7. Sacrificial lambs are non-competing performers that will go up before the start of each bout to calibrate the judges, and give them an opportunity to practice judging.

  8. In the event of a tie on final stage, the top poets will go into a final, sudden death round. Each poet will perform one poem, which may be a repeat, and the judges will write the name of their preferred poet on a slip of paper to determine the winner.



  1. Judges will be chosen from the audience based on their willingness to judge, enthusiasm for poetry, and non-affiliation with competing poets. Potential judges who have a personal relationship with any of the competing poets, including friendship, should not volunteer to judge. Poets should not encourage their friends or associates to judge them. Complaints regarding judge selection should be brought to the Aloha Slam organizers immediately. Poets found to intentionally bring their own judges will be disqualified.

  2. Scoring is on a scale of 0-10, including 1 decimal point. Judges are encouraged to use the full range of scores, not be swayed by audience, try to set aside personal biases, and be mindful of the concept of “score creep.” Score creep is the unintentional tendency to score poets who perform later in the night higher than those who performed earlier.

  3. Judges should keep the following criteria in mind while judging: stage presence, writing ability and wordplay, connection with the audience, complexity of writing and entertainment value. Poetry is subjective, and will speak to each judge differently. 

  4. Judges will be seated at a table separate from the audience to reduce distraction. Scores will be written on slips of paper, which will be passed to the MC and read aloud. This will provide judges a degree of anonymity to judge freely, and will prevent conflict between performers and particular judges over scores.



  1. First place winner: $500

  2. Second place winner: $300

  3. Third place winner: $100



Last Thoughts

  1. Memorization is not required, but is highly encouraged. We want to see your best performances, and the audience loves eye contact!

  2. If a trigger warning is desired for a particular poem, the poet should inform the MC before the poet’s turn. Any trigger warning from the poet while on stage will count as a first utterance for timekeeping purposes.

  3. Poets should make no attempts to influence the judges or audience during the bout. Those found to do so will be referred to Aloha Slam organizers for potential point deduction or disqualification.