Germany-based poetry slammer Bas Böttcher is performing tonight at Goethe Zentrum
Bas Böttcher is considered the prince of German slam poetry. Not only is he one of the first to popularise the art form in his country, but he is also the first to win the German Poetry Slam Championship. The 38-year-old, who “brings poetry to life”, leads a nomadic life as he travels around the globe like a “medieval minstrel, who uses the lilt and cadences of the spoken word to evoke, provoke and question.” Bas will be performing slam poetry tonight at Goethe Zentrum and will be holding a workshop on slam poetry for adults and children on Saturday. Excerpts from a telephonic interview with the artiste.
About slam poetry
Slam poetry is about communication – connecting the poet and the audience. As a genre, it originated in America in the 1970s, when the poets in New York and Chicago transformed their private readings into impromptu stage performances and then competitions, enlisting the audience to judge the events; they used beats and rhythm to connect with the audience. The first Poetry Slam was held in Chicago in 1986.
Hooked to slam poetry
My mother was a teacher of the German language and language has always fascinated me. I care about words and how it’s used in communication. As a child, nursery songs enchanted me, especially the lyrics as they rhymed. Growing up, I listened to Neue Deutsche Welle, a form of German electronic music. In school, I joined the choir and learnt how to sing in tune. I was part of a band called Zentrifugal with DJ Loris. Although the audience enjoyed our music, I realised what I wanted from them was for them to listen to me, my words. I caught a performance by slam poet Lemn Sissay and was fascinated by the art form; I wanted to learn more. I got a chance to appear in a slam show at Mojo Club in Hamburg and there has been no looking back since.
Democratisation of poetry
Publishing poetry is a modern trend. Poetry originated in the oral tradition. Slam poetry takes poetry back to its roots as it is heavily rooted in the oral. This gives poets the freedom to express the words as they like; it could be by reciting what they have written, giving what they have written a rhythm or performing it with expressions or music. There is no poetic law or poetic style one has to follow.
Deriving inspiration from...
I try to find small things in daily life that stand for a bigger idea. The change of perspective on unusual things can be surprising. As I am a media designer, I do write on media and communication too. Poets like Tucholsky, Morgenstern, Jandl and Shakespeare are some of my inspirations.
I have released three books of poetry: Dies ist kein Konzert, Neonomade and Voruberggehende Schonheit. Each book includes a CD. However, it’s not for money that I wrote them. I don’t write poetry for it to just sit in print in some dusty corner of a bookshop; I write so I can perform it. I have also written a novel called Megaherz, which is on a relationship between a travelling DJ and a flight attendant. Die Poetry-Slam-Expedition is a school text book I have written with examples of Slam Poetry as videoclips. As I have always admired Shakespeare, I plan to write for the stage.
I came to Delhi in 2010 in connection with a book fair. Whatever glimpses I had of Delhi showed me that the country has a lot to offer. This time around, I am discovering South India. I was in Ooty recently and was charmed by the town. I also enjoyed a fantastic time in Kerala and in Karnataka at the Bangalore Literature Festival in September. I am still astonished and fascinated by the different languages in this country.