“Life will hit you hard in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.” – Sarah Kay
My first encounter with spoken word poetry was four years ago when a dear friend returned home after completing her first semester at New York University. She unloaded the variety of cultural shocks and experiences she was confronted with, one of them was slam poetry. Showing me videos on YouTube, we stumbled upon Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye’s ‘An Origin Story’. I was astounded by the dual emphasis on writing and performance, marrying the notions of oration, poetry and theatrics.
As spoken word made its way to our subcontinent it has flexed and moulded itself through the intricacies of Indian culture and society. What started as a small gathering of like-minded poets experimenting with this new form has now grown into a whole movement with influencers like Kalki Koechlin and Rupi Kaur lending their voices to perhaps what is now one of the most relatable forms of poetic performances.
Addressing a variety of subjects, from toxic masculinity, feminism, and sexuality to even light-hearted witty commentary and humour – these poets have found a growing audience across India. Here are just some of our favourite spoken word poets whose powerful words and voices have caught our attention and emotions, alike.
I. Bharath Divakar
Bharath Divakar is one of the most famous and featured spoken word poets from Bangalore. He began writing at the age of 12 in Kannada and later dabbled in short pieces and stories in English. He performed at theatre events and later fused that with poetry. He’d eagerly watch Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye on YouTube for inspiration. Catch him in action as he attends and performs at events held by the Airplane Poetry Movement every second Sunday of the month at Atta Galatta in Koramangala.
HG loves: Expecto Patronum, a powerful poem about abuse.
II. Daniel Sukumar
Based in Bangalore, Daniel Sukumar is a maestro when it comes to examining the darker side of human nature. He ruthlessly reveals those parts of ourselves that we’d rather not see and is known for his ability to make your skin crawl. Having performed his poetry in venues across Bangalore, and having mentored student poets, Daniel has played a huge role in the development of slam poetry in the city.
HG loves: A Guide To Personal Killings, he claims is a poem about love.
III. Angshuman Sarma
A lover of mathematics, winner of poetry slams and student of Psychology, Angshuman Sarma believes that stories enable people to connect and change. He has been a finalist at NYPS and has been featured all across Bangalore in many places such as Write To Change, Mouth Of Word, House Concert, and in his college fest Kalopsia. Hailing from the North-Eastern region of our country, he uses slam poetry to express what his motherland means to him and its relevance in today’s time.
HG loves: Where Do I Come From? is something we all need to experience.
IV. Nandini Varma
Nandini is the other co-founder of Airplane Poetry Movement. Her vision is to create an ecosystem where poets have opportunities to build careers and spoken word education is accessible to everyone. A graduate of Indian Law School in Pune, Nandini is a poetry educator who encourages individuals to speak about their experiences and how it affects their lives, and society as a whole.
HG loves: I Wish I Could Talk To My 12 Year Old Self is a poem about her experience with menstruation.
V. Simar Singh
Simar Singh, founder and curator of UnErase Poetry, made headlines a few months ago with his poem on marital rape went viral. Another one of his works, ‘How To Be A Man’ raises pertinent questions in regard to the concept of masculinity in India. This poem is “for every father, every brother and every son, who wets his pillows so many times and yet he’s woken up just fine.” Achieving all this at the tender age of 16, he represents that generation of our society that believes in actions.
HG loves: How To Be A Man, a poem about marital rape.
VI. Jasmine Khurana
A daughter, a wife, an ex-teacher, a hyper mother, a compulsive blogger, a geeky content writer and an ex-administrator – Jasmine Khurana has done it all. Popularly known for her piece ‘Banter Between Generation’ that she performed with her son, she takes life with a pinch of salt, shares her stories through her blog ‘Frills on my heartstrings’ which is her odyssey navigated by the myriad roles she has and does play in life.
HG loves: A Mother, A Girl, A Woman is a poem about her life.
VII. Hussain Haidry
Haidry’s recitation of ‘Hindustani Musalman’ at Kommune, a performing arts forum in Mumbai, was shared by the forum’s Facebook page this February. Within a week, the poem was shared by over 2,000 Facebook users, written about in national newspapers and re-tweeted with comment after comment about how it moved people to tears. Having become an overnight star, the infamous Hussain has written two more poems called ‘Aag’ and ‘Lat’ - A Smoker’s Shame that has also gained attention. It’s hard to not take his words to heart and his emotions ring through with every word.
HG loves: Hindustani Musalmaan, as he vents his frustration.
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