India’s history is rich in art and culture. Many of our kings and queens were great patrons of art, under whom artists of all trades flourished. Those from within the country and around the world found a stage here. Poetry in particular often became a medium of expression for the masses, both for dissent and celebration. While India has always been home to some of the world’s greatest poets, the forms of poetry used are changing and evolving constantly. Spoken word poetry is a new such mode of expression that’s quickly gaining popularity in the country today.
As an art form, spoken word breaks conventions of traditional poetry and challenges the normative ideas of how it should be performed. What started as a group of like-minded people coming together to share ideas has now turned into a full-fledged movement with structured platforms and global forums. Celebrities like Kalki Koechlin and Kunal Kapoor have endorsed it and many young poets have embodied it. From feminism, gender roles, and sexuality to light-hearted musings on life and simple humour, spoken word artists are transforming how we create and consume poetry. Here’s our list of spoken word poets that have captivated audiences with their strong voices and opinions this year.
I. Simar Singh
16-year old Simar Singh is the founder and curator of UnErase Poetry. He is widely known for his works that discuss marital rape and challenge toxic masculinity. He came out with a poem titled ‘Super Woman’ this year, which raises questions on how far we’ve actually come regarding the empowerment of women, reminding us of the misogyny, unequal power structures and normalised violence still present in our everyday lives. This rendition of his is well articulated and strikes a deep chord.
HG Loves: Super Woman, a poem about gender dynamics in the country.
II. Diksha Bijlani
22-year-old Diksha Bijlani has always felt trapped by social structures. She finds that schools seem to give lesser and lesser agency to individuals to be in control of their lives. She turned to spoken word to take on topics like mental heath, politics, dissent against society and its institutions, the objectification of women, and so on. Her works are often sprinkled with personal experiences and musings that are very relatable.
HG Loves: Songs of Dissent, a poem on the government and public of India ‘tackling’ student protests
III. Ishmeet Nagpal
Ishmeet is a Mumbai-based social activist whose poem titled ‘Before You Commit Suicide’ has made the rounds on social media. A piece that highlights the precarity and mental duress of someone on the cusp of considering suicide, the poem is bold and deeply moving. She works with the NGO Save the Children, which works towards improving lives of under privileged children in India. Her other poems also talk about mental health, gender issues and sexuality.
HG Loves: Revenge Porn, a poem highlighting this prevalent practice and its consequences in today’s world
IV. Qais Jaunpuri
Qais, a civil engineer-turned-founder of Aao Kahen Dil Ki Baat, a real life sharing program that allows people to share their secrets in public, writes defiant pieces that usually question social institutions and power dynamics. He is also a part of the acclaimed theatre group Jashn-E-Qalam Storytelling. His poems, performed in Hindi and Urdu, are beautiful because of their simplicity, making them all the more impactful.
HG Loves: Mai Namaaz Nahi Padhunga, a poem that appeals to humanity rather than religion.
V. Megha Rao
22-year old Megha Rao is currently working as the curator of Terribly Tiny Tales. She is new to the spoken word poetry circuit but has become viral from her first attempt at it, titled ‘I’m In Love With This World’. Through her piece, she explores the idea of love – what it means to people and how they see it reflected in their daily actions, big or small. It’s a sliver of much-needed positivity and wonderful to hear.
HG Loves: ‘I’m in love with this world’, a poem about love and humanity in today’s world.
VI. Priya Mallik
Priya Mallik, also a famous television personality, has been making waves in the spoken word poetry scene of India. Her poems are presented as “streams-of-consciousness,” perfectly reflecting thoughts from the deepest, darkest corners of our minds. Her poems are frank and talk about female sexuality, her identity within the Indian diaspora, and romantic relationships in this age. She performs in Urdu and English.
HG Loves : ‘When he told me he no longer loved me’, a rendition on heartbreaks
VII. Yahya Bootwala
This Mumbai-based poet performs in Hindi and Urdu. He rose to fame last year with his piece titled ‘Shayad Woh Pyaar Nahi,’ where he grappled with the definition of love. His process of understanding his own emotions resonated with the audience and propelled him to popularity. He writes abstract poetry often dealing with coming-of-age issues like love and relationships.
HG Loves: Maut Aur Main, a poem that talks about the angel of death.
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