by Louise Robertson


The Ballad is a narrative poem with a dramatic conclusion — a fantastic poem form for slam. There’s no rhyme scheme or meter requirement, but you have all the drama in the world to play with and injustice never hurt so much as when it’s put forward like this.

The history of this form is an anti-establishmentarian form, coming as it does from the lower classes of the 15th century. But it claimed its place in the canon by the 19th century — try “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) for a compelling example from 200 years ago.

Enough about the history, you probably already know the ballad in song form (Casey at Bat and Streets of Laredo). But for a poem example I’m going to turn to Maxwell Kessler who is working this form and working it hard.

Here’s a you tube of “The Story of Big Bend Tunnel (As Told By Shaker, Lil’ Bill)”. The poem starts at about 1:35 in. And you can find the link to it published right separately before this note.

Let’s try a direct URL too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XjpRy6JM30



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