Snapping with poetry slam

All smiles: Winners of the National Youth Poetry Slam

All smiles: Winners of the National Youth Poetry Slam

While poetry writing has been an integral part of the Delhi University for many years, the art of spoken poetry (commonly known as slam poetry), is now emerging as a new trend. With youngsters taking up this art form, slam poetry has been successful in spreading its roots throughout the university.

A few years back, there were not many who were aware about this art form. However, with the evolving culture of spoken word poetry, many colleges now organise slam poetry events. The events being held in DU are small scale and college-based. However, students are not afraid to step out of the university to showcase their talent.

National Youth Poetry Slam (NYPS) was organised in Bengaluru in collaboration with College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) recently. Three girls of Gargi College won the hearts of the audience through their beautiful poetry. The team comprised Diksha Bijlani, Cheryl Mukherji and Shubhra Awasthy. They are now preparing to represent India at CUPSI, to be held in Chicago.

Written word poetry has been around for decades. However, spoken word poetry is an upcoming trend, especially in DU. What is it all about?

Spoken word poetry is an art-form where the poet writes something for the sole purpose of performance. It can use gesticulation, have a colloquial style, or any style. The poems do not need to have a rhyme scheme and sound similar to the way we speak on a daily basis, but still have a rhythm to them. It is different from conventional poetry. The most important distinguishing factor is the element of audience attention. There is a huge involvement of the listeners in slam poetry. The audience responds with snaps each time they connect with something the poet says and this is important because we want to use it as an art-form to make people listen to us.

The National Youth Poetry Slam was organised for the first time in India. Tell us a little about the selection process.

The NYPS auditions involved uploading a video of oneself performing an original slam poem. Colleges from across the country sent in their audition videos, which were then evaluated by mentors. The top 25 colleges selected on the basis of top three scorers from that college, battled it out at the National Stage in Bengaluru in teams of three. The first round was individual performances by team members for which individual scores were added to make the team score. The top 10 competed in the final round which was a trio poem round. The best group poem won that round as well as NYPS.

How was your NYPS experience?

It was a month-long creative process which had us learning and re-learning poems we wrote and edited. NYPS exceeded our expectations for the first ever national slam. There were acclaimed poets and judges from the international slam community, like Sarah Kay and Kyle Louw. There was a spoken word poet collective from Pakistan. There were wonderful judges from the home front, including Kalki Koechlin. As participants, it felt extremely welcoming that poets we have looked up to were taking an interest in our competition and also sharing the stage with us.

Do you think DU can emerge as one of the major contributors to slam poetry culture?

Delhi University is a melting pot of talent that people pursue with passion. It is no surprise that spoken word poetry has come as far along as it has, in our university. DU is one of the major contributors to the slam poetry culture. It spearheaded slam poetry in Delhi and is also home to the most frequently held slam poetry competitions and events. At the National Slam, there were six DU colleges out of 25 top colleges. Slam poetry is about making each voice matter and DU students are ensuring it by making this art-form reach out to those interested.

You will be representing not only DU but also India at the stage of CUPSI. How are you gearing up for it?

We plan on preparing for CUPSI in the same way we prepared for NYPS, giving it our hundred per cent and still having fun. We are in the phase of deciding of what we want to talk about and express, at CUPSI. We realise that representing India at the international stage means representing Indian issues. So, we are striving for a culture specific uniqueness in some pieces, a universal appeal in others, and a reflection of our own selves in yet others.

What is your advice to budding poets who are apprehensive about performing in front of an audience?

Don’t do it for gratification, do it for the power that comes with expression. You will stop fearing the audience and start fearing imperfections in your pieces and performances. Also, there isn’t a better feeling than getting up there and saying something really close to you and see people responding and relating to it. Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and let go of your inhibitions. Spoken word can really be a release, where you're talking to no one in particular and yet everyone is listening.

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Printable version | Aug 17, 2022 9:16:34 am |