OFF THE SHELF, FOR THE SELF
Poetry slams in the city.
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