Slam Poem - Saul Williams - "Children of the Night"

Posted by Paul Devlin

This was the first shoot for SlamNation, before we even knew we were doing a movie.

I had already made Slammin' and was shopping it around to MTV, Sony and even Russell Simmons (this was in ‘95-’96 – a little before it’s time apparently because Russell went on to do HBO’s Def Poetry Jam many years later).  Nothing was in place, but the finals at the Nuyorican were happening and I knew I had to film it.

Bob Holman was still the host at the Nuyorican but the politics were fierce and relationships tense.  Bob and producer Tom Poole made the shoot happen, but under the condition that we would not have access to the direct audio from the sound board. The Nuyorican wanted to make sure it had some say in what happened to the material.  Tom made sure we got the proper audio later when SlamNation was in post-production.

Saul told me that this poem was still in progress when he performed it at the Nuyorican, so it might be interesting to compare it to later versions.   It was still a powerful piece, because he won that night, went to Nationals, starred in SlamNation and the rest is history.



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Slam Poem - muMs da Schemer - Roach Motel

Posted by Paul Devlin

My father once asked me what muMs was saying with the line, “That illy ill shit, keep the mental in check.” After I tried to translate he responded, “Oh, I see, he’s speaking a different language.” Of course – it’s cockroach poetry! Perhaps the ultimate persona poem, muMs’ performance from the point of view of a cockroach doubles as biting social commentary. A brilliant example of the unique work that has emerged from slam poetry.

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Slam Poem: Jessica Care Moore - "Box This"

Posted by Paul Devlin:

Can a white person born in the U.S with family roots in South Africa identify him or herself as “African American?”  What about an American with Morroccan or Egyptian ancestry? Also African American? Why do we often use the term African American to describe a black person, but rarely use European American to describe a white person?   Besides, no one is really white or black – we’re all flesh color (I can prove it with the scopes that measure color in my edit room).  When you start to examine it closely, the language collapses.

Years ago, I read an interview with Marlon Brando, who said that when asked to identify his race on a form, he wrote “Human.”  I’ve followed his lead ever since.

Jessica Care Moore takes on the absurdity of racial labeling in this burst of energy performed at the finals of the National Poetry Slam in Portland, Oregon.  

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Slam Poem: Beau Sia - "Give Me a Chance"

Posted by Paul Devlin:

Beau performed this pop poem during the New York City stop of Gary Glazner’s cross-country SlamAmerica bus tour in 2000.  I caught up with the bus on several legs of the tour and worked with the documentary team to justify my place at the party.  The tour had a rotating membership depending on the region and it was great fun traveling with all sorts of clever characters around the U.S. 

The tour was captured in Gary's movie Busload of Poets.  We’ll share more fun performances from the mighty SlamAmerica tour, so stay tuned.  


Slam Poem: Taylor Mali - "Like Totally Whatever"

Posted by Paul Devlin


Taylor Mali is ON FIRE in at the finals of the National Poetry Slam in Portland Oregon. I enjoy the utter self-confidence, sharp intelligence, and almost evangelical energy he brings to the stage – perhaps the best-ever performance of this popular piece. I’m also impressed by Taylor’s clever technique of showing, not telling through devastating caricature. His final illustration by example of the importance of language is utterly convincing.

This poem climaxed my film SlamNation. Many more great ones by Taylor and others on the way.

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Slam Extra - Beau Sia - The Gym

Here's another great extra from SlamNation - Beau Sia performing his hilarious poem "The Gym."  You can catch Beau live at 8:00pm on Wednesday September 29th at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City.  More details here.  Check back here again soon for more great poetry from Beau and many more!

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SlamNation Extra - Saul Williams, "Ohm"

Posted by Paul Devlin:

This classic poem from my movie SlamNation helped Saul Williams get famous.

SlamNation is the seminal film of the slam poetry literary/performance movement.  It played theatrically across the U.S. and on HBO and Starz. This performance of the poem also appeared in the PBS Special “I’ll Make Me a World.”

AND it served as an audition piece of sorts for Marc Levin’s movie Slam, which went on to win the top prizes at Sundance and Cannes. Mark was set on Bonz Malone for the lead in his movie.  But Bonz was in jail at the time and Marc needed alternatives.  Marc knew I was working on SlamNation and wanted to see Saul in action on screen. I showed him this piece, and sold him hard on Saul, especially since Saul was also a trained actor.

Marc started workshopping scenes with Saul and Sonja Sohn, the female lead. He asked me to edit together a demo of this rehearsal footage, my footage of Saul from SlamNation, plus some guerrilla footage they had of Saul in a prison when they brought him in as an intern on one of Marc’s documentary shoots. (Brilliant!) The demo convinced the warden at the prison in DC to provide the main location for the movie and helped the team secure funding.

The process of making Slam has been well-documented, including a book.  But this part of the story has never been told. Always wanted to ask Marc about that...

We have over 150 complete poems, extras and anecdotes from SlamNation, so definitely visit often for more!

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SlamNation Extra: James Nave "Poem for a Thief"

This week's extra is the full length poem titled "Poem for a Thief" performed by James Nave. 

James is a talented poet who has remained close friends with Devlin Pix through the years.  We were happy to find this extra hidden away and wanted to share it with you.  Enjoy!

SlamNation Extra - Alexandra Oliver - "Ring-a-Ding-Ding"

Here's a special extra from SlamNation.  This is a full length poem from Alexandra Oliver, as featured in Paul Devlin's film SlamNation.

Check out her commentary on it here!

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