Slam Poetry – The Art of Unconventional Poetry Recitals


After having procrastinated for a good one week before getting to write this, I spent immense amount of time pondering over what to write (Writer’s block, you think!). Thank the heavens, my Poetess friend Anna Thomas came to my rescue when she happened to have shared a little poetry with me. “How’s this for my next Slam?”

It read,

“One day you’ll be sitting behind these grills

With nothing to eat except the dirty old pills

You’ll feel like you’re locked up for the crimes that you’ve done

And you’ll wonder forever if what you did was so wrong

But listen to me, it will all be okay

Put down those pills and just wait for the day

When your head isn’t hurting and your heart isn’t in pain

Oh baby, on that day I bet it will rain.”

Utterly gobsmacked by the play of metaphors, themes and diligently maintained rhyming scheme, I decided to dig more into the world of Slam Poetry. Eventually, I ran into a myriad of beautifully knit lines, draped in literary devices, silently screaming the musing of a 2 A.M human, which often gather dust in the dusky crisp pages of our diaries.

My longing to learn more about Spoken Word, made me strike up a conversation with Nandini Varma, co-founder of the Airplane Poetry Movement, India’s biggest Spoken Word platform. “Spoken Word is different for different people,” she says. “I was an extremely shy kid. Forget about speaking up, I didn’t even know what speaking meant. Spoken Word Poetry has given me a voice. I can use it through the most beautiful art form that is poetry.” A complete stranger to the world of Slamming, she was introduced into this art “..through Sarah Kay’s TED Talk and then a couple of more videos that I watched right after discovering this sea of brilliance I could dive into and forget what my purpose in life really was for a little while.” She likes her conversations, like her poems – short and crisp.

The History of Slam Poetry dates back to Mid 1980’s. American Poet Marc Smith is often credited with starting the Culture of Slam Poetry in Chicago. This new artform spread like wildfire and inspired many to resort to making it a full time career, participating in slam competitions and touring around the country.

Spoken Word, grants the liberty to surf the highest of the wave of thoughts and un-fence a poet’s creative self. Unlike other forms of Poetry, Spoken Word is meant to be performed, and not just recited like in Conventional Poetry Meets. The topics of a Slam are often Political ranging from Gender, Caste, Race, Religion, War, Sexuality. Spoken Word is invites a bit of acting with bit more of dynamics (change in tone, whispers to loud talks etc). The only rule you are supposed to abide by, when listening to a Slam Poetry, is to snap or click your fingers everytime you relate to the poet. How easy is that!

Delhi based Spoken Word artist, Sonal Sharma is an established Poet in the Delhi Poetry Circle. She finds Poetry as a tool to change the Society. “Poetry is powerful. Words are game changers. There is so much power being on stage, having an audience listen to you. So I try to talk about things people don’t talk about.” Her poem called ‘The Inappropriate Poem’ has garnered over 100k views on YouTube.

Roshni Raheja, NYPS finalist, very diligently sheds light on the difference between Spoken Word Poetry and Conventional Poetry, “As a huge fan of ‘conventional’ poetry, I find the relationship with Spoken Word and Slam Poetry rather intriguing. Some poetry is written to be read, but this is written to be performed, which changes a lot of key elements like rhythm, language, vocabulary, verse style, etc. Poetry written to be performed competitively, i.e. Slam Poetry, has to be powerful. When you read poetry, you can reread lines to understand them better or appreciate them, but while listening, the performance poet only gets one shot – so it becomes incredibly important to perform in a manner conducive for an aural audience.”

As intrigued and enthused I am about Spoken Word now, I tried my hand at it too.

“Take me to the mountains and watch me as I go,

To the brim I’d be full, then like a river watch me flow.

Through the slopes and valleys, carefree, I rush down to the end.

Don’t wait for me, I might never return, my friend.”

Not so much eh? *sigh*


(Featured image source)


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