Poetry Slam

It might seem bizarre to reduce something as abstract as a poem to a hard numerical score. To understand the philosophy of poetry slam, you must understand its history. The poetry slam was invented by Marc Smith, a construction worker in Chicago in 1984. He was frustrated by snooty, elitist poets who appeared to have no interest in connecting with a live audience, and decided to stage a poetry reading in which the audience would have a way of giving the poets direct feedback – through scores.

The very word ‘poetry’ repels people. Why is that? Because of what schools have done to it. The slam gives it back to the people…. We need people to talk poetry to each other. That’s how we communicate our values, our hearts, the things that we’ve learned that make us who we are. ~ Marc Smith

Slam is a phenomenon that has spread throughout the world. One of France’s most celebrated slammers describes it this way:

Le slam est peut-être un art, le slam est peut-être un mouvement, le slam est sûrement un Moment. ~ Grand Corps Malade

Canadian Individual Poetry Slam (C.I.P.S)

The Canadian Individual Poetry Slam (CIPS) is a dedicated large-scale national event to determine the best slammer in Canada. It is sponsored by SpoCan (Spoken Word Canada), the governing body of Canadian poetry slam.

April 20: CIPS Orientation, Havana Theatre (10AM-12:30PM)

April 20: CIPS Day One Bouts, Havana Theatre, starts 5:30PM
April 20: CIPS Day One Bouts, Cafe Deux Soleils, starts 8:00PM
April 22: CIPS Day Two Bouts, Cafe Deux Soleils, starts 8:00PM
April 22: CIPS Day Two Bouts, Havana Theatre, starts 8:00PM

Forty poets will participate in the 2020 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam Championships. In the first night of bouts (on April 20th), the participating poets will perform in four-minute and one-minute poems. In the second night of bouts (on April 22), they will perform two-minute and three-minute poems.

Each bout will consist of ten poets. The poet receives a ranking according to their scores for each poem. Lower rankings are better. The best possible ranking after the preliminary bout stage would be a four, meaning they finished first in each of the four rounds. The top twelve poets with the best rankings from prelims advance to the Canadian Individual Finals Night.

April 24: CIPS Finals

In the finals bout on April 24, there are three rounds of three-minute poems. In the first round, twelve poets perform. The top seven highest-scoring poets advance to round two and perform again. Then, the top four highest-scoring poets from round two advance to the third and final round. The poet with the best score in round three becomes the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam Champion. There is a clean slate for scoring in each round (scores are not cumulative). The order of poets in each round is determined by random draw.

Basic poetry slam rules apply. That means no props, no costumes, and no musical accompaniment. The poet has only their words and their performance with which to make an impression. Each poem is judged by five random members of the audience on a scale from zero to ten. The low and high scores are dropped and the poem receives a score out of thirty. If the poet goes over the time limit for that round, they lose 0.5 points for every ten seconds they are over the limit.

Past CIPS Winners



2011 – Ikenna ‘OpenSecret’ Onyegbula
2012 – R.C. Weslowski
2013 – Ikenna ‘OpenSecret’ Onyegbula
2014 – IF the Poet
2015 – Prufrock Shadowrunner
2016 – Andre Prefontaine
2017 – Ifrah Hussein
2018 – Lady Vanessa Cardona
2019 – Nisha Patel
2020 – tbd

All past CIPS champions have been invited to represent English Canada at the World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris and have received free airfare and accommodation for their trip. However, it is important to note that neither Verses nor SpoCan has a formal agreement with the World Cup of Poetry to continue this arrangement. We expect it to continue, but there is no guarantee.