Louder Than a Bomb: Omaha 2013 Official Rules
Contact: Matt Mason, firstname.lastname@example.org
Louder Than a Bomb is an annual teen poetry festival and competition which happens in Omaha and is modeled after the festival in Chicago of the same name. In it, schools and community organizations field teams of teenage poets, who then compete in a format similar to the National Poetry Slam.
This rulebook talks first about eligibility, then about the competition format, and then about restrictions placed on the poems themselves, before finishing with a series of recommendations.
1. Each team must be sponsored by a senior high school or a community organization serving high school-age youth. Each sponsoring school or organization may field only one team.
2. Schools or organizations wishing to sponsor a team must notify the LTaB organizers no later than 5 weeks prior to the start of competition (for 2013, competition is set to start on March 18, making this deadline February 11). At this time, said school or organization must identify an adult sponsor who is affiliated with that school or organization, i.e. a teacher, faculty-member, or other, similarly placed adult. This adult sponsor is responsible for making sure the team is prepared for LTaB, as well as for submitting all required information in a timely fashion.
3. All participants competing on a team must be enrolled in a high school or in a GED program or must have completed schooling in the same scholastic year as LTaB. All participants must be 19 years old or younger the day the competition begins. Similarly, all participants must be affiliated with the school or organization which is sponsoring the team on which they compete. Any participant seeking exemption from these requirements (e.g. a home-schooled student who wants to compete with her local school) must do so in writing at least 5 weeks before competition begins.
4. In order for a team to compete, that team must have at least 4 members and not more than 8 members competing in a season. Others may be on the team in a non-competing capacity. All competing team members must be registered with the LTaB organizers prior to the start of the first bout. Only registered team members may compete.
5. If a team cannot attend, please notify LTaB ASAP so that others may participate.
1. The LTaB competition takes place over a series of “bouts,” in which a small number of teams (typically 3 or 4) compete. Bouts take place over five “rounds,” each of which feature one poem from every team competing in that bout.
2. The first four rounds are individual rounds. More specifically, in each round, each team in the bout selects one poet from that team to read a single poem, per eligibility rules specified later in this document. No poet may compete in more than one individual round in a single bout. However, poets may perform in a single individual round in each of the bouts in which their team competes.
3. The fifth and final round in a bout is the group-piece round. In this round, exactly four team-members (no more, no fewer) from each school perform a group-piece. These poets may have already performed during the individual rounds earlier in the bout, and all four performers of a group-piece must have contributed (be it writing, vocal arrangement, or choreography, for example) to that group piece.
4. Each bout will have a host, bout manager, timer, and scorekeeper (note: sometimes two or more of these roles will be fulfilled by the same person), all of whom will be provided by the LTaB organizers. Teams must be physically present and check in with the bout manager at least thirty minutes prior to the start of the bout; lateness (i.e. arriving fewer than thirty minutes before the start time) to a scheduled bout will result in disqualification.
5. All protests of possible infractions and/or the enforcement thereof should be directed to the bout manager within 30 minutes of the conclusion of that bout. The bout manager will review the issue along with tournament staff, who will present the decision no later than the following morning.
6. A mixed panel of five artists, educators, youth, and audience members shall judge each bout. Judges should not be affiliated in any way with the teams they are judging; should a team suspect such an affiliation, they may challenge the judge selection to the bout manager and should a team member be affiliated with a judge, they should reveal this right away.
7. Each poem performed in the bout shall receive a score from each judge ranging from 0.0 to 10.0 inclusive (i.e. to one decimal place). The scores are then arranged from greatest to least, and then the lowest and highest scores are dropped. The sum of the remaining three scores becomes the poet’s score for that bout (and will be between 0.0 and 30.0). The scores accrued by members of a team within a bout are cumulative, such that at the end of the bout, teams will have a score between 0.0 and 150.0. The team with the highest cumulative score at the end of the bout receives a rank of 1, followed by the second-place team with a rank of 2, and so on.
8. Each team shall compete in 2 preliminary bouts, meaning that each team will have a minimum of 10 chances to perform. (8 individual, 2 group). Poems may not be repeated within a given bout, but may be repeated between bouts. Thus, teams must prepare a minimum of 5 written pieces for LTaB.
9. At the beginning of each bout, each team will submit an entry form with the names of the 4-8 poets competing in that bout. Teams with 4 poets will see each of those poets read during the individual round, and then all of those poets read during the group-piece round. Teams with 8 poets will see 4 poets read during the individual round, and then another 4 during the group-piece round. Teams with 5-7 poets may have any arrangement of four poets read during the individual round, so long as any poets who did not read during the individual round read during the group piece round.
10. There will be one four-team semifinal for every 12 schools competing (rounded to the nearest 12), with up to four semifinals total. LTaB organizers may decide to hold more semi-final bouts by which teams can earn a berth into the finals.
POEM CONTENT, FORM, STRUCTURE:
1. All poems must be the original work of the poet(s) performing them. Plagiarized poems will be disqualified (i.e. will receive a score of 0.0). Note: direct quotations, allusions, or clear inspiration typically do not count as plagiarism. When in doubt, check with the LTaB organizers or with the bout manager.
2. Content matter should not exceed a PG-13 rating, i.e. avoid excessive violence, sexually explicit content or language, profanity, discriminatory language, or language which is degrading to any group of people. Poems may still deal with the ideas or notions of violence, sex, profanity, discrimination, or degradation (and so on), but should not perpetuate such things. Each content violation, as determined by the bout manager, will result in a 0.5 point penalty to the score (reminder: the team sponsor may protest penalties or the lack thereof).
3. Poems may last up to 3 minutes and 10 seconds before time-penalties are assessed. Time penalties shall be 0.5 points for every 10 seconds over the time allotment (rounded up). After 4 minutes and 10 seconds, poems will be disqualified (receiving a score of 0.0) and the poet asked to leave the stage.
4. Poets may not feature props, musical accompaniment, costumes. Poets may, however, stomp, clap, snap, sing, beatbox, etc., so long as all noises are created by the interaction between the poet’s body, the stage, and/or the microphone.
5. If more than one team member participates in an individual round, the poem will be assessed a 1 point penalty. If, in the 5th round, the team has a number of team members that does not equal 4 participating in the poem, the poem will be assessed a 1 point penalty. Competition Format Rule #2 still stands: a poet can only appear on stage once during the individual rounds. Only 1 microphone is guaranteed to be turned on during individual rounds and 4 during the group poem round.
6. Beyond these rules, there are no restrictions placed on form, content, or structure of the poems or the performances thereof.
1. Rehearse, practice, revise, and fine-tune your performances such that when you step on stage, you are performing the poem as well or better than you’ve ever performed before. If all you do is that, you have already triumphed.
2. Consider memorizing your poems. It’s not required, but the fewer barriers between you and the audience, the better the performance will feel to them.
3. When you step on stage, take the time to adjust the microphone and to make sure that you are well-situated, rather than starting before you are ready. The clock starts running once you engage the audience, so make the most of that time.
4. When you arrive at the venue for your bout, take the time to learn how to adjust the microphone, and figure out where to stand so that it picks up your voice as well as possible. Microphone usage is a skill, and can be learned with a bit of practice. Remember, it’s your job to give the audience an awesome performance. Every little bit helps.
5. Remember that the competition ultimately comes down to the whims of judges who assign scores for very arbitrary and subjective reasons. Even if you delivered the best performance of a bout, you might not get the best score. This is to be expected, and even celebrated. We encourage you to focus on giving the best performance you possibly can, and to fully enjoy all of the other performances you see. The math will take care of itself.
6. Remember also that the competition lasts only a few weeks, and is the culmination of months of writing, rehearsal, and communing with fellow poets and performers. Again, focus on having the best experience you can throughout the entire process – make friends, write poems, and learn as much as you can; the competition will sort itself out in the meantime.
7. The unofficial motto of poetry slam competitions is “The points are not the point. The point is poetry.”