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What is Poetry Slam? 

For those who may not know - poetry slam is a competitive art event in which poets perform poetry and spoken word pieces in front of live audiences and a panel of judges. The roots of this artistic competition go back thousands of years to Greek poets who performed for audiences that would pick their favorite, but the current version most of us are familiar with originated back in the 1980’s at Chicago’s Green Mill under the influence of poet Marc Smith. 

The game has evolved over the last three decades and many luminaries have stood upon stages worldwide to speak their truth in power. Slam poetry has its own legends and all of us who compete today stand on the shoulders of giants who have redefined and reshaped the way this competition unfolds. 

The format of the competition can vary, but some things are the same no matter where you go – the poet’s performances are judged as much by the style and energy of the performance as they are by the content and quality of writing. Judging is usually handled by random audience members from the audience. And in most cases, poets are allowed to use only their voice, their body and their presence to perform.

At the end of the day, a poetry slam is an opportunity for poets, whether deeply experienced or brand new, to occupy a space and fill a room with their story. Prize money and recognition are sweet rewards for those who go all the way, but the ability to move people with your experience and your art in a safe space is what brings poets and audiences back again and again to these rooms. 

In the southwest, if you say the word cicada, most people won't know what you mean. Around here we call these little beauties chicharras

Like them, the Chicharra Poetry Slam Festival is a spring phenomenon filling the trees with the music of life emerging from deep underground. 

Chicharra gathers poets from around the nation for 3 days of team & individual competition, creative expression, art and community - a celebration of all that poetry inspires! 

Showcasing incredible national talent, we aim to deliver a high intensity display of verbal virtuosity and dynamic performance while fostering safe spaces for artists of all ages and identities. We believe every human being has the right to live without fear, apology or shame.

Whether you register to compete, or simply want to attend the free events; everyone, everywhere is invited to participate! 

You can expect:

  • At least 12 teams and up to 28 Individual poets competing together!

  • An exhilarating Finals Stage featuring the top 4 Teams & top 4 Individual Poets!

  • 3 days & nights of events including:

  • Dynamic Workshops

  • Themed Readings & Open Mics

  • Book Market

  • Breaking Bread - Poet Family picnic

  • Showcases

  • Safe Spaces

  • Sober Spaces available

  • Plus the chance to explore the unique cultural history and gorgeous high desert landscapes of  our beloved state.

  • And a few surprises yet to be announced, including some wicked swag bags for poets

$4500 in PrizesRegistration is Closed - See you at the Festival! 

Festival Structure

What You Need to Know 

3 Days of Team & Individual Competition

(please note: attendance at the poet's orientation on March 21st at 1 pm is required for all poets)

All poets experience 2 nights of preliminary competition (Thursday, March 21st & Friday, 22nd) with 3 Early Bouts and 3 Late Bouts per night. 

Each night there will be 3 bouts happening simultaneously in 3 separate venues. Venues and placement in prelims are determined by a public, random draw prior to the festival. 

Prelims Structure:

Team                                                     Indies

Late Bouts on March 21st                    Early Bouts on March 21st

Early Bouts on March 22nd                   Late Bouts on March 22nd

Finals Stage  March 23rd

Team bouts are each 4 rounds, with one spot per bout reserved for each team member. This spot may be used by the team member individually, or for a group piece in which that team member is the primary author. Teams needs 8 poems (any combination of solo or team pieces) for preliminaries, plus 2 additional poems if they advance to Finals. After 2 days of prelims, the top 4 teams advance to Finals. 

Indie Bouts are each 2 round bouts. Indies need 4 poems for preliminaries, plus 2 additional poems if they advance to Finals. After 2 days of prelims, the top 4 Indies advance to Finals

For both Team & Indie Competition, scores are cumulative. Cumulative scores determine Team and Individual rankings.  Time for all rounds and bouts is 3 minutes with a 10 second grace period. 

Order of competition will be determined by random draw at the venue before your bouts, so be sure to arrive at your venue early. After your bout is over, one member of your team will need to sign the bout sheet.  

Slam Rules

No costumes, props or musical accompaniment allowed.

Check our Format & Rules page for more, but please note, in addition to the rules and format guidelines there, we absolutely will not tolerate anyone plagiarizing another poet's work. This is grounds for immediate removal from competition. If work you are doing is inspired by another poet or samples their work, please be sure to credit them. 

This is a free speech event, but any form of hate speech or unwanted actions against anyone will not be allowed. Violation of this will result in an immediate zero score on your poem and expulsion.  

Since there is always at least one poet who asks – No, you do NOT have to memorize your poems (and should never have to). Do what works for you.  

This is a safe & consenting space. All poets are required to sign and agree to the Chicharra Code of Ethics. You will not be able to compete without this, so please be sure to get those turned in. 


Team Requirements 

Pick your team any way you like! Bring last year's team, this year's team, your youth team, or a hand picked  squad of poets and bring that fire!  (Teams may consist of up to 5 poets, but no less than 4 poets) 

Individual poets ~ simply register! 

We are working to ensure every venue is accessible and open to all of our competitors, but if you have team members under 21 or team members with accessibility needs please let us know during registration so that we can make accommodations as needed. 

All poets welcome regardless of experience, style, or demographics. We love all of you. 



Simply click on the Registration tab at the top of the page, where you will find registration options for competition and the book market.

Team registration is $300 for up to 5 people. You are welcome to bring a 6th person (Coach, Slam Master or team Member) but there is a small additional fee of $50. 

Individual registration is $150.

Y'all, the cost of living is stupid right now. And we don't want anyone left out because of this, so we have a pay-over-time registration option available before February 15th, 2024.  Please complete all payments within 30 days if possible. After this it may become difficult to reserve your spot. 

We will keep a wait list, which will open one week after registration closes, so we have enough time to notify teams if they have been moved up to the active list. 

Can I register as part of a team and compete as an Indie as well? 

Absolutely! Several people have already - but please note, you will need to register and pay both registration fees.  If you got the ambition, we got the mics. 

For poets competing on a team - performing individual pieces during your slot is obviously fine, and its all love, but those scores will NOT be considered as qualifying for Indie finals. If you want to qualify for Indie Finals, you have to compete in the Indie bouts.  

We feel its important to respect both forms of competition and allow them to exist separately during the festival in order to maintain a sense of equity.


Other Ways to Participate   (support Our Documentary)

Participating in the Chicharra is easy, and there are a few ways you can take part, even if you're not competing! 

If you have books or merchandise to sell, grab a table at the book market from our registration page at a minimal fee! 

Also we love (and need) volunteers! All volunteers receive sweet swag and free admission to Finals.  Without you, we can't do any of this! 

All workshops & daytime events are free, and open to all to attend. Check the schedule and plan your day! 

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