Format & Rules

This is how we do it! (admit it, you sang it) 

Format & Scoring

Format for Team & Indie competition:

Since we are hosting both Team and Indie competitions, one of the things you’re probably wondering is ; how the hell is that gonna work? 

We are taking a slightly different approach in order to support both competitions and make our best effort to give everyone an equivalent playing field. We are doing that by structuring the prelims for both competitions in identical ways:

There will be a total of 12 preliminary bouts for all competing poets, whether on a team or individual, to try and earn their way to Finals stage. There are 6 bouts on Thursday, March 21 and the next 6 taking place on Friday, March 22. 

Teams will compete in 2 nights of preliminaries. Each prelim will be a 4-round bout with teams performing 4 poems,  meaning teams need 8 poems total (indie pieces or group pieces, or a combination of indie and team pieces are all allowed) for prelims and another 3-4 if they make Finals.

Indies will also face 2 nights of preliminaries, but Indie bouts will only be 2 rounds, meaning poets only need 4 poems for prelims, plus another 2 if they make Finals. 

All preliminary bouts will be bracketed, with three bouts occurring simultaneously in different locations, with different audiences and judges.

All bouts will be drawn randomly and assigned before the competition begins, so that everyone knows when and where they need to be well in advance. 

Early Bouts will take place from 7 pm to 9 pm and Late Bouts will take place from 9 pm to 11 pm. 

Each set of 3 bouts will consist of either Teams or Indies, and will rotate nightly. 

  • Thursday, March 21 – Early Bouts are all Team bouts, Late Bouts are all indie bouts.
  • Friday March 22 – Early Bouts are all Indie bouts, Late bouts are all Team bouts.

This way, whether you are on a team, or flying solo, you will have the same opportunities to compete with your peers in the same categories and everyone will have one late bout and one early bout. And ideally this also means our audiences get a taste of both!

For those of you who may not have a lot of experience with festival or tournament bouting, here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Thursday, March 21

  • Early Bout A – Teams
  • Early Bout B – Teams
  • Early Bout C – Teams
  • Late Bout D – Indies
  • Late Bout E – Indies
  • Late Bout F – Indies

Friday, March 22

  • Early Bout G – Indies
  • Early Bout H - Indies
  • Early Bout I – Indies
  • Late Bout J – Teams
  • Late Bout K – Teams
  • Late Bout L – Teams

Saturday, Marc 23 – Finals

  • The top 4 teams will go to Finals stage and the top 4 Indie Poets also make Finals stage


For those of you who have been around a minute, this is all old hat, but for our newer folks, here’s how it works: 

At the end of each bout, your cumulative score will determine the winner.

(Please note: at the end of each bout, a representative from your team will need to review and sign the bout sheet, as well as providing the names of the poems. This signature means you agree that the scores are accurate.)




Each poet and team will compete in two preliminary bouts assigned during a random draw held publicly (through Zoom). The draw for the order of competition during each bout will take place onsite at the start of the bout. Poets will be judged by 5 judges. Judges will score each poem from 0.0 - 10.0 using one decimal place. Poets are not allowed to repeat poems during prelims. Each preliminary round will carry a grace period of 10 seconds. No ties will be broken in prelims. Poets and Teams will receive a rank based on their scores in the preliminary bout. 

The highest score receives a 1, second highest score gets a rank of 2 and so on. 

In the case of a tie, the rank will be shared and relative strength will determine their overall ranking across the tournament. These rankings form the basis for determining who goes to Finals stage. 




Poets and Teams who make Finals stage will be based on ranks acquired over the course of preliminaries. The 4 Indie Poets and the 4 Teams with the overall lowest rank will advance to the Final stage. 

Order of competition during Finals will be determined during a brief orientation with all poets one hour before the audience is admitted to the venue, so all poets and teams who make Finals, as well as sacrificial poets, will need to be in attendance for this. 

The top 4 Indie Poets will compete in a 3 round Final competition. 

Teams will compete in a 4 round Final competition. 

Scores for both Finals events will be cumulative. In the event of a tie for 1st Place, poets will be given the choice to perform one more poem to determine a winner, or to split the prize and the title.

In the event of this, the next highest scoring team or poet will be ranked 3rd overall. 




Props Rule:

Poets may not use any props. The poet cannot verbally reference an item while pointing to it, picking it up, or holding it, as that will be considered a prop violation. However, any item used in a performance that other poets also have access to use will not be considered a prop (for example, a mic stand or chair on stage). Items that are part of the poets body (not clothing) and support items such as glasses, canes, wheelchairs are considered extensions of the poet and will not be considered a prop.


Poets must perform original work. No more than 15 seconds of a poem may be quoted or sampled from another poet’s work and credit to the original artist must be given. 

The Chicharra Poetry Slam Festival will disqualify, with no refund, any poet who attempts to plagiarize another artist’s work. 

Primary Author Rule

In Team bouts, each team is assigned four slots per bout. Each poet on the team is considered to have one of these slots, so when teams compete  with group pieces, the poem should have a primary author who has contributed the majority of the writing to the poem. However any poet performing in the group piece must also have contributed to its writing.

Whoever the primary author of the poem is should be considered the poet whose slot is used for this piece. At the end of the bouts, we will ask that the primary author of each poem be identified, in order to ensure every poet has contributed and no one poet on a team is the primary author of more than one poem used in that bout.  

If you have questions about this rule, please message us and we will clarify.

Costume Rule

No costumes or clothing changes are allowed. The addition or removal of any article of clothing that may be seen as enhancing the poet’s poem or the audience reception of that poem is considered a costume change. If this should happen, the poet will lose 1 point from their score. 

Bout Draw

Any poet arriving to preliminary or Finals bout draw will be assigned the one and will perform first. If more than one poet arrives late to the bout draw, then they will be assigned the earliest slots based on their arrival time or random draw.

Repeat Rule:

You may repeat 1 poem on Finals stage that has been used in competition during preliminaries. Any poet who repeats more than 1 poem they have already used during competition will automatically have 2 points deducted from their score but will be allowed to continue competing. 

*Note: Any poems you have read at an open mic or other side event CAN be repeated on Finals stage if you choose. Only poems you have competed with fall under the Repeat Rule.



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