Voice your words.
-Beginner’s Guide to Spoken Word Poetry by 3 aspiring Nepali spoken word poets cum Spoken Word instructors of Word Warriors.
When Marc Kelly Smith started at an Open Mic Night at the Get Me High lounge in November 1984 called the Monday Night Poetry Reading, it is very doubtful that he envisioned spoken word poetry to begin as a movement which would take poetry’s world by storm. Over the years, spoken word poetry has made heads turn and hearts re-fall in love with the poetic rhymes and verses. Simply understanding, spoken word poetry is the art of “performing poem.” A young Nepali spoken word poet, Larisa Shrestha defines this form as
“Poems that refuse to remain within the confines of lines on a page but demand to be taken from the page to the spotlight of the stage. These are poems that come right out of your heart.”
Spoken word poetry goes one step beyond poetry. Prakash Chandra Jimba , another spoken word poet, who didn’t know about spoken word poetry when he first started writing, found inspiration in it when he participated and won in Kathmandu Regional Slam- 2016. Seeing people perform and after performing his own poem, he knew he had found his forte. After that, he didn’t just write poems but started performing them because like Larisa, he believes that spoken word poetry makes every word come alive rather than merely confining them in a paper. He shares
“It is fascinating because I think it helps to bridge the gap between complexity of mainstream poetry and person’s understanding of it.”
According to Nubhisha Upreti, who is a literature student and winner of Lalitpur Regional Slam-2016, what makes spoken word poetry different from mainstream poetry is that
“There are no rules in Spoken Word poetry. There is actually, just one. But then that one rule is that, ‘there’s no rule.’”
This is true in a sense that there is no one concrete form of spoken word poetry. Being an art of storytelling, a poet has the discretion of weaving words together in any form as long as it can instantly connect with the audience. And maybe that’s the reason anyone with a story to tell can be a spoken word poet.
Nubhisha further adds
“There are some of us who’ve not liked poetry in the beginning because we found it boring in our textbooks, but later when we know that poetry is storytelling we think, maybe we should try this. And in that way, I believe that everybody has a poet in them.”
Spoken word poetry is not very different from mainstream poetry, but it has provided new window to look through art of poetry to those who may not have found proper door to it. Spoken word poetry is an act, a performance, a drama, an expression which is verbal and open. It is a form of storytelling which takes audience to whole another journey in someone else’s shoes. Spoken word poetry is more influential because it guarantees instant response which is a good thing but in the same time it can be very frightening. Larisa tells “You have a panic attack and freak out! But not literally.” Her way of dealing with her stage fright is breathing in and out, moving around while releasing the tension in her shoulders, massaging her jaws and her favorite is pretending to be a ninja and running around the place to keep her nervousness in check. While Nubhisha’s coping mechanism is thinking of beautiful things like dark chocolates, flowers, fireflies, rainbows. No matter how experienced spoken word poet you talk to, most of them will tell you that your heart almost jumps to your mouth, few moments before you take the stage. But this excitement and nervousness is the thing that makes it all worth it. Someone has rightly said that fear is necessary for it makes you feel alive.
Talking about their experience till now, Nubhisha tells she feels like a completely new person being involved in the world of spoken word as she learns new things every day. Prakash shares his experience about the experimental awkward poetry prompt Word Warriors did on previous Saturday when they asked public to give them a picture with some background stories and they would write a poem instantly. Spoken word poetry is slowly growing as a community in Nepal most evidently through Word Warriors.
“It’s been just a year since I joined the team of Word Warriors but I have been visiting schools and organizations in different parts of Nepal to talk and conduct workshops with young students about spoken word poetry. In those classes, I have learnt fewer lessons but more life. I have learnt to dream more because spoken word poetry has showed me that there are no limitations. While performing in stage I have felt that I belong to a different world within this planet and spoken word poetry is guiding me towards it,”
Spoken word poetry may have originated in a foreign land but it’s finding its way through rugged streets of Kathmandu, cozy cafes and classrooms of rural Nepal.
“Even though it may seem a Western concept, but we have our own language, art and culture which adds new dimension to it.”
Certainly, with its own magic and aura, it is not a strange thing that spoken word poetry is beginning to carve its own place in Nepalese literature and history.
Writer: Shuvangi Khadka
Shuvangi Khadka is an awkward young adult who likes to call herself “poetry enthusiast.” In between her torturous path to getting a law degree, she finds solace in writing. Being an avid reader you can also find her reading any kind of book in any kind of place.
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