Steel City Slam

 History of the Steel City Slam

The Pittsburgh poetry adult slam league (known as Steel City Slam) started in the mid 90’s via a 501c3 non-profit called Suncrumbs. The slam was under Suncrumbs’ 501c3 until about 2003, when Suncrumbs ceased to be an active non-profit.  Since then Steel City Slam performed monthly on its own (with a whole bunch of passion and volunteer work of those that love it) at the Shadow Lounge in East Liberty until 2013. We then moved to Brillobox and Ava Lounge in Oakland from August 2013 through October 2014. We are now housed in Capri Pizzeria and Bar (as of Nov. 2014).

What is the Steel City Slam?

The Steel City Slam is the only PSI Registered Poetry Slam venue in the city of Pittsburgh. Each year we select a team from open competition that represents Pittsburgh at the National Poetry Slam and any other regional slam tournaments. We hold a weekly slam (information below) year-round, although the official slam rankings begin in August and run through April, with a Grand Slam in late April or early May to determine the team. The first place slammer receives a cash prize, while the second place finisher wins something special.
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When and where does the Steel City Slam  happen?

The Steel City Poetry Slam is held weekly. Check out our Events page or our Facebook for more specific information on when/where.

Sign up sheet goes out at 7:45 PM and is limited to the first eight poets. There is also a noncompetitive open mic list. We like to start the slam by 8:30PM, but you know what that means?  We need judges and audience members!

What is the format of the Steel City Slam?

Typically, our shows go like this:

  • List goes out at 7:45PM
  • First eight poets to sign up are guaranteed a spot
  • Remaining poets can draw for wildcard, or 9th poet spot
  • Open-mic list caps at 6, which includes sacrifices
  • 8:15-8:30PM draw occurs and judges are selected
  • 8:30-8:45PM show begins
  • Open Mic (2 readers), Feature Set, Sacrifice poet, Round One, Break, Open Mic (2 readers), Feature (1 poem), Round 2, Open Mic (1 reader), Round 3, Open Mic (1 poem), our champion is crowned!
  • Our shows finish by 11PM

How can you get involved with the Steel City Slam?

  • Attend a Slam – The easiest way is just to come out and watch the show.
  • Participate in the Slam – Do you have three original poems that clock in under three minutes? That’s all you need to get started slamming your way to victory, fame, and fortune (no guarantees on the fame and fortune part). If you only have one poem that meets our time qualifications or you’re not ready to fully engage in our lyrical battle,  you can get to the slam early and ask the host if you can be the warm-up/calibration/sacrifice poet (whatever you want to call it).
  • Judge the Slam – The slam cannot run without judges. If you can be objective, enjoy quantifying art, and have a thick skin when it comes to fellow audience members, then you’re qualified to judge. Just ask the host/mc upon arrival.
  • Volunteer at the Slam – Want to host, bout manage, time keep, score keep, or simply look smug because you’re on the inside? Contact us to volunteer, and you won’t even have to pay the door.
  • Support the Slam – The slam team a) routinely brings in out-of-town feature poets to do sets at the slam, b) travels twice a year to Nationals and our regional qualifier, and c) needs money to pay for a) and b). If you’d like to sponsor an individual poet, or the team as a whole, please feel free to donate, buy our merchandise, or sponsor us.

What is a poetry slam?


From PSI (Poetry Slam, Inc.):

A poetry slam is a competitive event in which poets perform their work and are judged by members of the audience. Typically, the host or another organizer selects the judges, who are instructed to give numerical scores (on a zero to 10 or one to 10 scale) based on the poets’ content and performance.

From Wikipedia:

In a poetry slam, members of the audience are chosen by an M.C. or host to act as judges for the event. In the standard slam, there are five judges. After each poet performs, each judge awards a score to that poem. Scores generally range between zero and ten. The highest and lowest score are dropped, giving each performance a rating between zero and thirty points.

Before the competition begins, the host will often bring up a “sacrificial poet”, whom the judges will score in order to calibrate their judging.

A single round at a slam consists of performances by all eligible poets. Most slams last multiple rounds, and many involve the elimination of lower-scoring poets in successive rounds. A standard elimination rubric might run 8-4-2, with eight poets in the first round, four in the second, and two in the last. Some slams do not eliminate poets at all.

Props, costumes, and music are always forbidden in slams… Additionally, most slams enforce a time limit of three minutes (and a grace period of ten seconds), after which a poet’s score may be docked according to how long the poem exceeded the limit.

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