frequently asked questions

  1. What is a typical night at Urbana like?
    Here's what a typical night is like: poets sign-up for the eight-poet open mic (if we have one that night, sometimes we don't) or the eight-poet open slam (if there is one that night, semifinals are not open) between 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm (look for someone with a laptop at the end of the bar). At 7:00 pm exactly, all slots are filled randomly by computer. NOTE: Signing up is not a guarantee that you will be able to read. Sometimes you must be part of the "great audience that great poetry requires." At 7:01 pm Shappy, our bartender and emcee, welcomes everyone and facilitates the eight-poet open mic. Without a break, the feature is introduced to perform a 15- to 20-minute set. Urbana does not book "local" features; our features are all from out-of-town, and most have made a name for themselves at the National Poetry Slam. After a break (during which five random audience members are chosen to serve as judges) the slam begins. It's competitive, sure, but it's supportive and inclusive. top

  2. Is it possible to read a poem but NOT be part of the slam?
    Yes, of course. The first part of the evening is a 10-person open mic, in which anyone can read a poem. It is not a competition but a supportive atmosphere where you can read any kind of poem you want (so long as it isn’t too long). Sign up for the open mic at the bar between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. If there are more than 10 people who want to read, the computer picks 10 randomly so it doesn’t really help to get there early. top

  3. What kind of poetry goes over well at Urbana?
    Contrary to our reputation in New York City as the "funny" venue, there is a lot of serious, quiet, beautiful, and reflective work that gets read at Urbana and does well. Our audience is well read and intelligent and appreciates well crafted writing, be it political, personal, narrative, or funny. top

  4. What is the structure of the NYC-Urbana season?
    The weekly slams are divided into four quarters of six open slams each. Eight poets compete in each open slam, and points are awarded for first through fourth. The six winners of the open slams compete in the semifinal at the end of the quarter. The four semifinal winners go on to the finals on May 1th, 2007. top

  5. How do I qualify for the NYC-Urbana finals on May 1th, 2007?
    There are two ways to qualify for the finals. One is by winning the semifinal at the end of one of the four quarters. The other way is to be one of the top finishers in the Mega Quasi Semifinal on April 29th, which is for the top scorers of the year who did NOT win their semifinals. It is possible to be in the Mega Quasi Semifinal without ever having won an open slam; you would have to have come second a lot! top

  6. What is the "unspoken rule" regarding new poems?
    Urbana encourages new work. We don’t want to be one of those venues where you hear people performing the same poems over and over again. So the tacit rule is this: your first-round poem should be a NEW poem, one that no one else has heard before. If you make it into the second round, you can go for the gold with all your old, wonderful poems. In the semifinals, you can do whatever poem you want. top

  7. How does one get invited to be one of the features at an NYC-Urbana slam?
    Urbana only books out-of-town features. Most of them have distinguished themselves at the national poetry slam. top

  8. Is there a time limit?
    There is no time limit for open slams. A three-minute time limit will apply to semis and finals. top

  9. What are the basic rules of a slam?
    All poems must be original to you. No props. No costumes. No pre-recorded music. top

  10. Who judges at a poetry slam?
    Five randomly selected members of the audience who may or may not know anything about poetry. top

  11. How do I sign up for the slam and open mic?
    Show up at the Bowery Poetry Club between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. If there are more people signed up than we have room for (10 in the open mic, eight in the slam), a computer or some other random system will determine who is in and who is out. top

  12. Why is the admission to the semifinals twice as much as regular open slams?
    This year, we have made a concerted effort to bring in top-notch features for semifinals. You may not recognize the names, but they are the best of the best and well worth the steeper price of admission. top

  13. How do I join the NYC-Urbana mailing list so that I can get weekly announcements about who is featuring?
    Easy! You can sign up by dropping an email to or by visiting the email list page over at Yahoo. top

  14. What is the format of the slam?
    All eight poets read in the first round. The top four scorers then read in round 2. In round 3, the top two cumulative scorers battle it out with one final poem. Highest score for that poem wins the slam. top