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Rock ’n’ roll of poetry

A participant at a slam poetry event  

A rising phenomenon, slam poetry has taken the city by storm. A rather new form of spoken word poetry, people from all over seem to be enthralled by the magic of this growing poetic revolution in the form of slam poetry competitions.

Amrita Vellat, a student and budding slam poet, used to think that poetry was restricted to the classroom space. “I came across a video of two poets performing together and it was exhilarating. This is the most expressive way to tell the audience where you, as an individual, are coming from. Slam poetry gives life to a poem in a beautiful way.” As Janet Orlene, founder of InkWeaver and a slam poet herself, puts it, “Slam is the rock ‘n’ roll of poetry!” She adds: “It is a blank canvas for expression. Slam is a performance of sorts and for us poets, it is almost therapeutic. Anyone listening can relate to all that we talk about. It brings out a lot of powerful emotions from both the listener and the poet.”

Being a dominant platform, this form of performance poetry has slowly become a medium to voice social issues. From the fluidity of sexuality to the restrictive nature of gender roles, it has grown to be a secular space for raw, open emotions. Ishwari Deka, an avid listener, though not a poet herself, says, “I’ve seen poets breaking down during their performances. Slam poetry gives people a certain safe zone where they can be themselves and even if only for a minute, forget about being judged. It’s a beautiful space, where everybody is accepted.” The poetry scene in Bengaluru is a young one to say the least. College events, literature fests, poetry clubs are a few of the many platforms where such competitions have slowly been on the rise. Shantanu Anand, co-founder of the Airplane Poetry Movement, one such project to build a platform for spoken word poets in India, says, though a popular form of performance poetry, it still remains within the subset of poetry. “It’s one among the many forms of performance poetry. But, it is definitely making poetry more accessible and less complex. A lot of young people have this mental block against poetry. But, slam is breaking through that door,” he adds.

Though many believe that this form can be enjoyed by almost anyone who is willing to be a part of it, there are quite a few who differ. Perri Menzies, owner of Urban Solace and the organiser of ‘Tuesdays with the Bard’, is of the opinion that slam poetry appeals to a much younger generation. “The youth finds topics that they can relate to in this form. A few slam poets do come for my event. Most of them are really young. It’s an interesting art form but it can never take over traditional poetry.” Amrita agrees: “Most emerging poets are from a younger generation. So, as of now, it’s quite safe to say that the youth are able to understand and can relate to what these poets are saying.” Though opinions may differ about the art form, one thing can be said for sure. Slam is here to stay. As Janet concludes, “I know guys who knew nothing about writing except maybe writing an exam paper, suddenly using poetry and literature as vent to express. I’ve held hands of poets who were performing for the first time and who have gone ahead to become fantastic. I love watching this whole process.”

What is slam poetry?

Slam poetry, in the simplest of terms, is a form of oral narration influenced largely by the free verse. Coming to be sometime in the 1980’s, it is slowly becoming a growing trend. By itself, a slam is a poetry competition where poets perform their work, in front of an audience that serves as a judge. A narration where the energy and the performance is as important as its content, slam has come a long way since its inception.


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 6:14:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Rock-%E2%80%99n%E2%80%99-roll-of-poetry/article14477916.ece

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