Do your eyes know how to express the grand epiphanies of life, a subtle smirk that mocks authority, a smile that reflects a myriad of lessons and hands well versed with ways of dragging the attention to your words, if yes then you are in the world of spoken word poetry!You may find many youngsters today having a poetry jig at the college corridors or at a public library. Beyond the usual and conventional poetry recitation, they perform and promote spoken word poetry, a new form that is booming in all the metros like stand-up comedy. An informal group, Bhubaneswar Poetry Slam (BPS), with more than 50 odd members is spreading this spoken word poetry in the city far and wide, even reaching out to high schools.
With creative events like ‘Poetry and Pakudi’, ‘Poetry Night Out’ and ‘Poetry at Riverside’, these young poets keep looking for reasons for a poetry jig. Such is the craze for this new form of poetry that a team of three girls from Odisha, NIkila Chhetri, Shruti Mishra and Padma Parija, is now going to represent their state in India’s first ever National Youth Poetry Slam (NYPS), to be held in Bangalore this September. NYPS will feature the most celebrated spoken word poet Sarah Kay from America and poet turned actress Kalki Kochelin from India. Among the 25 national finalists, the three from Odisha, will be performing on 19th and 20th September.
Proud members of Bhubaneswar Poetry Slam community, an informal club of young budding poets promoting spoken word poetry in the state, they are representing KIIT University at the NYPS. A total of 25 colleges have been selected for the finals though hundreds of colleges across India had auditioned for the same.
Nikila Chhetri, who is busy preparing for the NYPS finals amidst her semesters, tells MCL how the seeds of spoken word poetry have only been recently sown in Bhubaneswar. However, considering the fact that there’s a massive population of young people with rose-tinted glasses and a knack for the new and unexplored, it’s safe to say that this culture will grow exponentially, she reasons out.
“With the few events that we have organised like Soul Slam and other open mic nights, there has been a bunch of new people who have come forward to explore this form of poetry which makes it pretty evident that it is spreading its wing in the city, particularly among the youth,” says Nikila, who is now leading the movement of BPS in the city with some other like-minded young poets.
Padma Parija, who recently joined the university as a first year student in B Tech says, “Each one of us needs to speak up – to be heard, to be happy, to be outrageous. It gives us a chance to open up to our dark desires, memories and things we couldn’t talk about. BPS is a group of talented, bold, literature enthusiasts who team up to bring out the best of literature in every event they organise. Being a part of this team has taught me wonderful things. I not only write poems, I also perform them,” she points out.
Spoken word poetry is definitely gaining popularity among the younger generation who love to paint stories and write their hearts out, she further adds.
Shruti Mishra, another finalist at NYPS and an enthusiastic member of BPS cannot agree more. “Spoken word poetry, for lack of a better phrase, is an outlet for thoughts you otherwise wouldn’t dare to say in front of others. That is one of the reasons why it is more relevant in cities like Bhubaneswar because for the youths in the city, it is more of a platform to venture out and explore ideas.”
She further says, “BPS is doing an amazing job in bringing poets from all over the city, in a very private setting while NYPS is the start of something beautiful; the start of a nationwide poetry slam movement. This will bring aspiring poets from different cities together on a national platform with acclaimed poets of the country gracing the occasion.”
“Performance poetry or spoken word, being the love child of poetry and dramatics, involves not only your words but also your expressions, actions and gestures. Spoken word poets do not simply read the poem aloud, they enact it. They infuse life into the bland words with their voice and spice them up with gestures and props. They build bridges of poetry with pillars of drama. They do not recite poetry; they perform it with every last shard of their souls. They exemplify strength on issues of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, the world in general and everything else that matters,” sums up Sourav Panda, a founding member of Bhubaneswar Poetry Slam.