Event: National Youth Poetry Slam
Date: 17th and 18th September
Venue: Lotus Convention Center, Bangalore
On the 17th and 18th of September, Airplane Poetry Movement pulled off a major coup and hosted National Youth Poetry Slam, 2016. The first national-level event of its kind, the event was housed at the Lotus Convention Centre in Bangalore, and boy, was it ever a success.
Whoever said listening isn’t a valued skill in the 21st century had obviously never set foot in this auditorium. Students and connoisseurs alike sat with bated breath, and applauded pieces of literature performed before them, while the performers themselves, poured out all their angst and left it all on stage.
Most of the performances were on critical issues that plague society today – relevant and striking. The poets did not shy away from touching on sensitive topics and words and ideas reveled.
Sarah Kay’s keynote address, had sparked everyone under the roof to be bold and speak up, and boy, the poets did not hold back. People had taken her words to heart: “The choice to not remain silent and the choice to reclaim your own narrative, is a political choice.”
The performances ranged from topics such as sexuality, feminism, acceptance, equality, and personal struggles. Clichés were re-established, stereotypes were broken. People got on stage and took over; they bared their soul, talked about their daily struggles in different walks of life, and in the end, people had to admit, every performance was power packed and impactful, and left you thinking why people were afraid to talk about the same outside the four walls of the auditorium.
Lotus Convention Centre had turned into a miniature lit fest, where the only medium of literature was poetry. There were people present from all walks of life, and everyone shared a deep love for poetry. UCI representatives were present at the auditorium as well, to judge the event, and invite the winners to take part in the Grand Slam in Chicago. It seemed unreal.
There was merchandise being sold at the front desk. The second day of the event saw people sporting T-shirts with the bold logo “I slam therefore I am”. Sarah Kay’s books were sold out. All in all, the literary minds who had gathered were determined to make this event a success.
People networked. Perfect strangers lounged outside in groups during the intervals to catch a break and also to catch up. Ideas were shared. New poetry was made.
The Judges and the Mentors:
The Jury for the final round included imminent names such as Kalki Koechlin, Anand Gandhi, Payal Sethi, Randhir Khare, Semeen Ali and Mariam Paracha. For a performer on stage, it would be the intimidating at the least to get up there in front of such dignitaries and have their say.
However, the mentors were around to boost morale and egg on their mentees for this very reason. The mentors themselves were people such as Deepak Romola, Janet Orlene, Mayank Susngi, Aditi Angiras, Bharath Divakar, Ray Inger, Anu Elizabeth Roche, and Anushrut Ramakrishnan, and KC Vlaine. They were seen hobnobbing around the venue all weekend, in conference with mentees, or other students, generally imparting words of wisdom, and advice on how to combat the mortal enemy: stage fright.
The mentors even had their own showcase, where each one braved the stage themselves to share their own experiences and ideas in perfect poetic language. Though each mentor was brilliant, the audience would unanimously agree that Bharath Divakar outshone all the rest, with his fluency, his unquestionable sass, and his obvious disdain towards conformity.
The judges themselves took the stage sometime throughout the course of the weekend as well. Their poetry was invigorating, and in many ways a reflection of their own unique personalities. Randhir Khare paced his words slowly for a better impact, Mariam Paracha won everyone’s hearts with her to-the-point, no-nonsense, poetry and personality, and Kalki wowed everyone with her outbursts of passion.
Every major event has a minor hiccup, and Biswa Kalyan Rath happened to be the same for NYPS. Though the comedian had promised an appearance, the audience were disappointed to learn that he would not be making it to the event.
However, another spoken word poet, Mumbai’s very own Shamir Reuben happened to be in the audience and graciously accepted an invitation to share his words on stage. What’s more? He moved the crowd and left us all wanting more.
Saray frickin’ Kay!
For every spoken word poetry fan, it was one of the highlights of the entire weekend (and probably the whole year), when Sarah Kay finally took the stage. Being an organiser, and a host, she’d been spotted around the venue all weekend, flashing her smile and calming nervous performers with her sage advice. For everyone in the audience, the woman was a beacon of sheer confidence.
Was she fazed that she was far from home in a foreign country, where she couldn’t speak the language, and was being stared at by everybody else? No.
Was she fazed when she realized she had made it onto stage without the list with the names of the judges (whom she knew by face but not by name)? No. She requested someone to hand her a list while making her way through her other introductory talking points. She simply took the stage, made it her own, and won the hearts of the audience.
For everyone who was there, her poetry was fun, insightful, and moving. People at NYPS were privileged, because they all got a free sneak-peak into Sarah’s works in progress, as she performed some new pieces she’d been penning together, in addition to some of the crowd favourites. Overall, the poet was simply a huge success!
Shantanu Anand and Nandini Varma, co-founders of the Airplane Poetry Movement were spotted running around the convention centre all weekend. The reason and inspiration for the event, they were perfect hosts, and could be seen in conversation with poets who had travelled to be a part of NYPS from all over India (and also, the world), making everyone feel welcome.
NYPS was a truly unique experience, made more so by the extraordinarily talented participants. When they took the stage to share some of their own work, the audience could only wonder at their talent. They took people’s troubles and voiced them, they took people’s wishes and made NYPS come true.
And they took poetry, and gave it a huge public stage, and in the process they took our hearts too.
This was a guest post by the extremely talented Ankita Datta. Ankita is a student of Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. She likes espresso shots and poetry. Please welcome her to the Spiktinot family!
This post would not have been possible without the help of the organizers, especially Nandini Verma, co-founder of the Airplane Poetry Movement.
ALL the images from the event were provided by them. Thank you so much, guys, for supporting small corners of the Internet like ours. Y’all rock
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