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From a Dead Poet’s Society to A Slam Poet’s Society


Kalki Koechlin performing at the debut edition of Spoken Fest 2017. Source: EventsFAQ

In earlier times when the TV and Internet were not there yet, the sources of entertainment were limited to dance, music and literature and while the former two got swept in the advent of technology and were adapted to suit the medium, literature remained true to its form and hence was forgotten to rusty old books and the lips of few who still drank up the literary works of long forgotten poets like ambrosia.

Cut to the present times and like any other generation that loves its plot twists, we have managed to conjure one up too. The verse is back in fashion, isn’t that how we say it? Oh wait, I have a better one. The verse is trending again. In a classic history-repeats-itself turn of the century, the Indian poetry scene is booming once again in a new avatar as the younger, bolder and brasher cousin of poetry, slam poetry.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN This form of poetry, that gives importance to the performance aspect of a poem as much as the writing behind it, has its roots as early as 1986 in Chicago. Slam poetry was started as a way to democratize poetry and bring it to the masses. It strips down the rules of rhythm and throws caution to the wind when it comes to themes and conventions. From gender issues to sexual abuse slam poetry covers every topic. A major reason why spoken word poetry has gained so much popularity among the Indian audience is because in a country where there is so much taboo surrounding topics like feminism, LGBTQ communities, patriarchy and nationalism, the spoken word platform gives the poets a safe and judgment free space to voice out their thoughts.

Priya Malik performs her poem, “Right To Pleasure” that breaks down the stereotypical image of a woman and her sexuality, performed at The Habitat on 11th September 2017 (YouTube: Unerase Poetry)

With soft focus lights, a mic stand in the middle of a stage and the audience snapping their fingers at a poignant line or clever wordplay, the mood at these spoken word gatherings is charged with the energy that comes from speaking about something powerful and evoking that power in those hearing you.

THE WAY AHEAD Our generation prides itself on being the advocates of discourse and dialogue and the spoken words performance is where this ideology thrives the most. When poets perform in their regional languages it doesn’t matter if the audience speaks that language or not. The poets conveys their feelings through the performance itself and in those undercurrents of understanding floating around the room the barriers of language are transgressed.

Kunal Kapoor performing his poem ‘Sold Bodies’. Source:

Spoken word performances are getting massive coverage on YouTube and other social media platforms, and one can regularly see cafes and pubs hosting slam poetry sessions. We know due to the many people who not only think of this as their hobby or passion but have taken it up as their job that this movement is not about to ride out anytime soon. And who knows maybe these Instagram poets leave behind a lineage that is shared and liked by enthusiasts of the verse for generations to come.

If you’ve somehow kept yourself away from the world of spoken word performances then worry not dear reader. I’ve a few suggestions that could help you familiarize yourself with this world as you nod and hum along with the words that speak to you through the screen. Check out the works of Sudeep Pagedkar, Shamir Reuben, Hussain Haidry, Prachee Mashru, Priya Malik, Harnidh Kaur, Kalki Koechlin and Arunoday Singh among the so many other incredibly talented poets that dot the Indian poetry scene as of now and if you have some recommendations of your own, well we are all ears!


About The Author

I read books, I finish reading books, I feel sad about finishing the book so I read more books to fill up that void. I also snack in between, make puns and try to survive the horror movie we call life.


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