OFF THE SHELF, FOR THE SELF

Poetry slams in the city.

Woman's Era - - Contents - Lub­hawani Ya­dav

BUT OF LATE, THE SCENE OF POETRY HAS EVOLVED INTO AN EX­CIT­ING AMAL­GA­MA­TION OF GROUPS, OR­GAN­IS­ING POETRY SLAMS AND POETRY-READ­ING SES­SIONS ACROSS THE CITY, WHERE ANY­ONE WITH A POEM CAN PER­FORM AND FIND AN AU­DI­ENCE.

New Delhi: Raghaven­dra Madhu quit his job in pub­lic health and started ‘Poetry Cou­ture’, a pro-bono ini­tia­tive, that holds poetry read­ings across the city for free and in­vites young po­ets to share their work. “When I started the ini­tia­tive in 2014, there were no poetry groups as such. It was pretty much like ‘you’ll scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back’ sort of a thing.”

But of late, the scene of poetry has evolved into an ex­cit­ing amal­ga­ma­tion of groups, or­gan­is­ing poetry slams and poetry-read­ing ses­sions across the city, where any­one with a poem can per­form and find an au­di­ence.

Saumya Choud­hury, pro­gramme di­rec­tor at Delhi Poetry Slam, says, “We usu­ally have one spo­ken word poetry slam every 2-3 months, where they can learn, share their poetry, give feed­back to each other and just grow as po­ets.”

A strik­ing fea­ture of th­ese poetry slams is their flair for ex­per­i­ment, whether in terms of their venues or the themes they cover in their po­ems. From cozy cafés to col­lege can­teens, th­ese groups are tak­ing poetry to the cor­ners and cran­nies, hith­erto unimag­in­able for artis­tic and lit­er­ary ac­tiv­i­ties. Choud­hury ex­plains, “Spo­ken-word poetry events need a more in­ti­mate and cozy space, where there is no distinc­tion be­tween the au­di­ence and the per­former. So we try not to hold them in places where there is a stage or an el­e­vated plat­form. Just a mic in the mid­dle and who­ever feels like they have a story to share, can chime in.”

The poetry slam events ex­per­i­ment with poetry on a plethora of themes and sub­jects. From gen­der and LGBT rights to en­vi­ron­ment, from per­sonal, emo­tional is­sues to so­cial is­sues, they po­et­i­cise upon all of them. Delhi Poetry Slam re­cently had young women po­ets ex­press them­selves on ev­ery­day is­sues like women’s safety, so­ci­ety’s fair-skin ob­ses­sion, the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and al­ter­nate ideas on top­ics of mar­riage and sex. “Men­tal health, de­pres­sion and peer pres­sure to choose a cer­tain ca­reer are some of the top­ics po­ems are per­formed on,” says Choud­hury.

The cul­ture of oral tra­di­tion of poetry has al­ways been there in In­dia, and th­ese poetry slams seek to re­vive the same. Madhu ex­plains, “Peo­ple get poetry.

It’s just the way you put it out to them. You have to make it ac­ces­si­ble, make it reach be­yond lit­er­a­ture. Also, Peo­ple do not have time to read. So, you need to give them an epi­gram.” We

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