Dr. Jerry Hankins:
Every year the art and poetry world gets together to watch the iWPS or Individual World Poetry Slam Competition, bringing the worlds artists together to watch 72 poets from around the world to compete in the art of spoken word. Competitive art, you ask?
Yes. Slam poetry is based in competition. It all started in Chicago in 1984 as an event at the Get Me High Lounge. The concept was quickly adopted by the New York City art scene, but the first national poetry slam was held in San Francisco and included both teams and individual poets. The format varies but often involves judges being chosen from the audience to rate poets on a one to ten scale.
The iWPS is a three day competition and one of three main competitions held by Slam Poetry, Inc. There are 72 competitors and one winner. The competition is important to the hosting city, workshops and various poetry related events are held. Some of the more obscure of these poetry events are theme based slams like queer, women, erotic, or even nerd slams.
Slams are not immune to criticisms. Some slams are explicitly judged by audience applause while the others are indirectly judged by audience favor. So, many critics argue, the poet is forced to conform art to please an audience like a reality show. Moreover, competition in general tends to be avoided by many artists, and poets are often the more eclectic of artists.
from Dr. Jerry Hankins Poetry http://drjerryhankins.org/2014/09/11/poetry-slams-and-the-international-competition/