10 Most Amazing Slam Poets on YouTube

by Staff Writers

There's something about hearing a poem being performed that feels like listening to music: the delivery, pitch, and rhythm are tailored to create just the right reaction and hit you in a very specific way. Whether they're talking about their first love, worst job, or unbelievable college experience, these slam poets use language and voice like no one else you've ever heard. Give them a listen:

  1. Taylor Mali: Taylor Mali is one of the best slam poets working today, and has appeared multiple times on teams at the National Poetry Slam. He's probably best known for "What Teachers Make," a poem he wrote a few years ago that's enjoyed a viral popularity ever since:
  2. Beau Sia: Beau Sia uses his Chinese and Filipino heritage as fuel for his fiery, hilarious spoken word performances. He's appeared on HBO's "Def Poetry Jam" and won multiple National Poetry Slam Championships. His poem "Love" is a scathing look at relationships that showcases his passion:
  3. Big Poppa E: Another veteran of "Def Poetry Jam" and National Poetry Slam champ, Big Poppa E's poems range from shouting indictments against hypocrisy to earnest works about loneliness and rejection. Here's a poem of his called "Dear White People" that makes a hilarious case for people to just chill out and be themselves:
  4. Mighty Mike McGee: Mike McGee has a way with words like few others. See, for example, this sentence from "Microphones": "In order to love life, I must love living and live love like losing it would look like I have no life left to live." He builds phrases with lightning speed and plays with the audience's expectations in fantastic ways:
  5. Alix Olson: Alix Olson's spoken-word performances attack homophobia, sexism, and corruption with wit and style. She won the National Poetry Slam Championship in 1998 and has since published her work multiple times and appeared on "Def Poetry Jam" and national tours. She was also the subject of a documentary called Left Lane: On the Road With Folk Poet Alix Olson. "America's on Sale" is a great example of her style and subject matter:
  6. Rives: John Rives is a fantastic poet whose work covers a variety of languages, including American Sign Language (he's worked as a teacher at a school for deaf students). He rhymes about love, poets, and the weird inner monologue of his daily life. Here's "Sign Language":
  7. Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz: Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz has performed just about everywhere and has been fortunate enough to publish her poetry, as well. Her poems deal with work, relationships, and the struggles poets tend to face, all laced with humor. "Notes on Rejection" was built, appropriately enough, using old rejection notices:
  8. Scott Woods: Scott Woods is the president of Poetry Slam, Inc., known for his regular 24-hour marathons where he performs constantly without repeating a poem. "A House Is Not a Home" talks about the death of Luther Vandross:
  9. Rachel McKibbens: A prominent slam poet and mother of five, Rachel McKibbens lives in New York but performs across the country, from festivals to dive bars. She's appeared multiple times in the National Poetry Slam, as well. "After School Special" deals with her prickly attitude toward her daughter's overbearing teacher:
  10. Saul Williams: Saul Williams blends poetry and hip-hop to create something unique and amazing. He had a starring role in the 1998 film Slam and has published his work in everything from Esquire to The New York Times. "Coded Language" is a great place to start for those new to his work: