This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Veda Nadendla. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Art Of Storytelling In Rhythm: Spoken Word Poetry Through Ages

More from Veda Nadendla

By Veda Nadendla:

We live in a world of dreamers and artists, all of us- teachers and students with a story of our own. A story through music, a story through rhythm, the one in colours and in brush strokes, one story in movement, the one in speech, and then, those stories in the eyes; a million stories waiting to be told and to be heard. This is a story of the poets of the spoken word.

Spoken word poetry is the type of poetry that is written on a piece of paper, but performed for an audience. A performance unlike a theatrical monologue, the spoken word is an ecstatic rendition of a personal experience using word play, free association, alliteration and slang.

Zeal and attitude are the key ingredients. Spoken word relies on the poet’s own experiences and his or her own narrative style. It is almost like a chic rant of aggression waiting to be unleashed. Since it is performed poetry, spoken word gives the writer the freedom of slang and uncontained rhythm in expressing their piece.

It is believed the Spoken Word is the oldest form of poetry. Found deep in history when people gathered in underground tunnels and moonlight bars to voice their vehemence against war and discrimination. From the times of Shakespeare to the Beatniks, till the time of hip-hop and slam poetry; the spoken word has successfully revolutionized poetry to give it a commercial, yet essential flavour. Spoken word has brought poetry to life; it is the art of storytelling in rhythm.

The Harlem Renaissance’ (1917-1935) was the Mecca for Spoken Word Poetry. Set in the post-war conundrum of death, destruction, discrimination and loss, there was a social, cultural and artistic explosion of Black writers, poets, musicians and scholars trying to find a space to voice their angst. It was more than just a literary movement; it involved a revolution demanding civil and political rights for the Black people in America. The Renaissance lured white people to the Harlem speakeasies, flouting jazz and blues music, where inter-racial couples danced, giving free reign to verse and poetry.

Carrying the legacy of The Harlem Renaissance was the most momentous occurrence in the history of poetry, The Beat Movement. The Beat Movement or The Beat Generation Of the 1950’s was a social and literary movement centred on the Bohemian artist communities in America. The ‘Beat Poets’ or ‘Beatniks’ as they called themselves were artists of ‘beatific spirituality’, adherents of the Beat Generation, who advocated purification, release and enlightenment. The Beat poets desired to liberate poetry from elitist and academic influences and return it to its rightful place, the streets. Theirs was an unstructured, vigorous and chaotic form of poetry which was often read in accompaniment of jazz music or percussion beats; ruggedly unrevised to preserve the immediate nature of the author’s experience.

Bookshops, cafes, open air theatres, restaurants, record shops, bars and pubs, auditoriums and theatres are the places where the spoken word is performed today. Yet, you need not a formal stage, you need not a definitive purpose, all you need is eager eyes and ears lending their attention to what you have to say. I have watched spoken word poetry on experiences like love, war, tragedy, loss, patriarchy, religion, politics, gender, sex, environment, crime, social evil, lust and anger; I’ve also heard a poet talk about toothbrushes and tyres. There is just this fire with which she spoke about that toothbrush, that I actually imagined my toothbrush talking to me. Since then, I say good morning to it every day. Picture that!

I used to think of myself as a poet, trying to rhyme alternate paragraphs, adding archaic English words to the sentences, breaking after every four lines and then being disappointed that it didn’t sound like the poems of Robert Frost and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. That’s when I discovered spoken word poetry, with no rules or etiquettes telling you what not to do, but welcoming experiences in their raw form, accommodating colloquial influences and the author’s indigenous nature to form a truly enthralling performance.

One of my favourite Spoken Word Poets is Sarah Kay; she is a woman of words that pierce the heart. Every time I watch her perform, I feel like she should be a rapper; and then I realize how hip hop, rap and spoken word are not really different at all. They are all artistes, aggressively reliving their stories in verse, on stage, through a beat and some music, compelling you to listen. Have you heard of Eminem? His stage performances are no less than verbal massacre, but what’s interesting is that there is so much truth to some of his writing, take ‘Stan’ for instance; even if he read it without a beat, just modulations and his face, there would be a world of feelings in there.

Spoken Word poetry has gained much popularity in the past few decades with poets taking to commercial places and performing in front of dedicated fans and audiences. Today, spoken word poetry is largely practiced and performed in literary forums and studied by students of literature. But you don’t have to study to be a spoken word poet. The art form has gained momentum through TED Talks and TED x around the world, where speakers deliver awe-inspiring pieces about their lives, giving me goose bumps and leaving me speechless.

India too has caught onto the momentum. Spoken word poets Sarah Kay and Philip Kaye were invited to perform at the Blue Frog in Mumbai. India has also seen a few performances coupled with Spoken word Classes in Pune and Bangalore. It is a catching art and one that will soon be as popular as stand up comedy in India; it is only fair that we encourage it more.

I have been an ardent believer of the expressive arts and their therapeutic value. Spoken Word is one such expressive art which needs no expertise, all it needs is passion put on paper and words that can be memorized and expressed with the raw emotion. It is an aggressive and powerful form of expression, pushing age old literary boundaries and telling us that we too can be poets. So don’t wait for a stage or an occasion to show up, write your mind and go enthral the next person you see. Be it a presentation at work or a research paper at college, take the next thing you want to say and why don’t we try it the spoken word way?

 

You must be to comment.
  1. Yashnashree

    This is quite a comprehensive write up on the art that is Spoken Word Poetry. Would love to share my tryst with the art form 🙂 http://yashnablogs.blogspot.in/2014/06/inkheart.html?spref=tw

More from Veda Nadendla

Similar Posts

By Kriti Gupta

By YUMNA MOBIN

By Sushruta

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below