The Room Is on Fire

The History, Pedagogy, and Practice of Youth Spoken Word Poetry

By Susan Weinstein

Subjects: Education, English, Poetry, Educational Research
Hardcover : 9781438470238, 210 pages, June 2018
Paperback : 9781438470221, 210 pages, January 2019

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Tables

1. Who’s Who

2. Pedagogy and Practices

3. A Brief History of The Field

4. What Is Spoken Word Poetry And Where Did It Come From?

5. The Role of Slam

6. Youth Spoken Word Poetry Enters Its Third Decade

In Memory of Those We Have Lost

Appendix A
Brave New Voices Festivals by Year

Appendix B
Youth Spoken Word Poetry Organizations by State and Country


Blends history and theory with practical descriptions of how spoken word poetry is taught and how to produce spoken word events.


The Room Is on Fire offers an overview of youth spoken word poetry's history, its practitioners, participants, and practices. Susan Weinstein explores its grounding in earlier literary/performance/educational traditions and discusses its particular challenges. In order to analyze these issues, the story of how youth spoken word poetry developed as a field is told through the voices of those involved. Interviewees include the people who organized the first youth poetry slam festivals, the founders of central youth spoken word organizations, and a selection of young people who have participated in their local programs and in regional and national events over the last two decades. Narratives about individual and communal efforts and experiences are supported by analyses of full-text poems by youth poets and by reference to contemporary scholarship in performance studies, critical youth studies, and new literacy studies. Blending history and theory with practical descriptions of how spoken word poetry is taught and how to produce spoken word events, the book will appeal to researchers, teacher educators, and K–12 teachers.

Susan Weinstein is Associate Professor of English at Louisiana State University and the author of Feel These Words: Writing in the Lives of Urban Youth, also published by SUNY Press.


"In The Room Is on Fire, Weinstein invites us to become aware of the scholarship on and implications of a practice grounded in collective struggle. This book makes a significant contribution to an otherwise understudied phenomenon in language, culture, and social and political power." — Teachers College Record