“Poetry slams are a device, a trick to convince people that poetry is cooler than they’ve been led to believe by wearisome English classes and dusty anthologies,” writes Scott Woods in World Literature Today. “By dressing up poetry in the raiment of a fight or contest, it appeals to the modern taste for sensationalism in art without—when done right—delving into mere caricature or entertainment." This is one reason slam poetry has become increasingly popular since its creation in Chicago 21 years ago.
Woods' essay is part of a larger feature section on performance poetry in the Jan.-Feb. 2008 issue of World Literature Today (some content available online). Go check it out. Performance poetry is a “vital and longstanding literary form that is often ignored or given only limited coverage in most literary magazines and journals,” explains editor-in-chief David Draper Clark in his editor's note.