Slam poetry

This month’s ASCL Library Highlight puts the spotlight on a relatively young art form in Africa: slam poetry. This art form, which combines poetry and performance, often with a strong social or political undertone, is gaining increasing momentum among Africa’s youth as a means of expressing opinions and emotions. In particular, the library’s French-language literature section has seen some interesting additions in recent months.

After publication of this Highlight, also Dangaré (Miroir): slam by Aziz Siten'k became available in the ASCL Library. If you would like to receive updates, subscribe to the ASCL Library alert service, and enter "slam poetry" under free search terms.


Anthologie Malienne de Slam Poésie

This anthology brings together slam texts from 52 Malian slam poets, and 31 French-language slam artists from other, mostly African, countries. Editor Aziz Siten’K is a leading figure of the slam movement in Mali, and founding director of the Festival International de Slam et Humour du Mali (FISH MALI). The book begins with a short introduction to the history of slam poetry in Africa, followed by samples from different artists.
Anthologie Malienne de slam poésie / choix des textes : Aziz Siten'K; avant propos : Cheick Oumar Sissoko; préface : Marc Kelly Smith. Bamako, Mali: La Sahélienne, [2020]

Slam: receuil de textes sur les thèmes: femmes, emploi des jeunes et paixCover_Slam_receuil_de_textes

In 2021, L’Harmattan Guinée invited slam artists to send in texts on the themes women, youth employment, and peace, for its competition “Prix du jeune écrivain Guinéen 2021”. This collective volume brings together entries for the prize, which recognises the importance of the genre for young Guinean writers.

Slam : recueil de textes sur les thèmes : femmes, emploi des jeunes et paix / Collectif. Paris : L'Harmattan, [2022]

L’Oraison de l’âme: slamCover_ll_Oraisin_de_l_ame

This is a collection of slam poems by Guinean Yaya Ezail Kassé, aka le Parolier du Sud. In the preface, the poet explains how slam has become a vehicle for expression that channels great liberty in its writing, and its performance: "En somme, c'est de la poésie libre qui n'est pas sous le joug des règles de la versification de la poésie classique. Le slam permet cette rencontre de shoot verbal, de mise en jeu de la voix, des mots et des émotions."

L'oraison de l'âme : slam / Yaya Ezail Kassé. Paris : L'Harmattan, 2022.

Le temps d'un slamCover_le_temps_d_un_slam

This is the first book by young female slam artist, Bacar Nawiya, from the Comoros. Her texts, which are often based on personal experiences, have a strong emotional and idealistic component, on topics such as women’s rights, and the rejection of violence. In an interview, she states that her words are her “sole weapon of defense, and means of expressing many emotions.” This book is currently on order and will be available in the coming months.

Le temps d'un slam / Bacar Nawiya. Editions Coelacanthe, 2022.


Related links

CASP (Coupe d'Afrique de Slam Poesie)

Female slam poets of francophone Africa: spirited words for social change / Bruijn, M. E. de, & Oudenhuijsen, L. W. In: Africa, vol. 91, no. 5 (2021), pages 742-767. Also see the documentary in the supplementary material.

‘When It Is Too Hot, It Will Rain’: responding to sexual violence through slam poetry / by Amee (Aminata Bamba) & Loes Oudenhuijsen. African Arguments, April 12, 2021.

World Poetry Slam Organization. The World Poetry Slam Championship 2022 will be held in Brussels from 26 to 30 September.

Germa Seuren