What’s not to love about poetry? After years of being a drone-student in school, poetry finally reveals itself. You start to love it. You write your first one with alternating lines with rhyming words like “love” and “dove”, or even “above”. You would have written without the ease that your poem did not make sense. You would have started your first sonnet in its metaphoric eye like, “YOU SAID WHAT NOW?” And as J. D. Salinger said, you begin to “take the weather personally.”
Percy Bysshe Shelly, E. E. Cummings, Maya Angelou, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath; you learn that there were notable “others” who felt what you felt and wrote about it to go down in history. Then you read more, you write more and you learn more. But now, you find someone as ordinary as you “performing” a poem so extraordinary and it beats leaving it written down, laying on the face of a page. Well, that was spoken word poetry to me.
Here’s a list of spoken word poems you should be familiar with. And don’t forget to check out our post on urban slam poetry in India.
1. I am not Chinki, Chinese or Nepali by Brian Khamboi
Brian Khamboi, a Manipuri student in Delhi, protests against the ethnic and racial discriminations that young North Eastern Indians are faced with.
“At night, I watch the orange streetlight dim down,
How my vision spread out like a mirage
Both seen and unseen.
How the story of my life is written in the palm of my hand:
Confused lines crossing.”
2. ‘Nails’ by Staceyann Chin
Staceyann Chin is part Afro-Jamaican, part Chinese, LGBT rights activist and a renowned spoken word poet. She is open about being a lesbian, in fact shows the world that she wears it proudly. She is also a single mother. Most of her poems express dissent about the treatment of the LGBT community, and also so takes several jabs at politics.
“Those days, I don’t want quiet; I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
I like it when there are screams, and battle scars, and trophies.
That way, before the war begins,
I already know what I’m about to fight for.”
3. The Real Peace Prize by Ekta Sharma
Featured in the Delhi Poetry Slam, Ekta Sharma talks about the problems of several marginalized factions that are swept under the rug, and the hypocrisy nobody notices that follows the Nobel Peace Prize.
“This award is not a reward for keeping the peace.
It’s a prize for the mantelpiece;
A threat in disguise;
A friendly reminder to continue to toe the line,
A design to keep the status quo alive.”
4. Pole Dancer by Andrea Gibson
An award winning poet from Colorado, USA, and the first ever poet to win the title of “Women of the World Poetry Slam” is Andrea Gibson. Her poems talks about gender norms, social reform, activism, politics and the struggles LGBTQ people face in today’s society.
“The key to finding love
Is fucking up the pattern on purpose
Is skipping a stitch,
Is leaving a tiny, tiny hole to let the cold in
And hoping she mends it with her lips.”
5. Omnisexual by Chandrakant Redican
A Pune based spoken word poet, Chandrakant Redican, performs poetry that explores the lives of the different communities in India. In his poem Omnisexual, he turns on the flood lights that tell the tale of transgender communities, stripping down to every dirty detail that could make you cringe. He performs his poetry in Marathi and English.
“Hey, look at me!
I’m a Hijra.
I don’t have anything swinging down there.
The blouses that I wear,
I can bear my waist and
I can show my back as well as any of them.
I do not have a cunt or nice legs,
But I can show flab like the sexiest woman.”
6. Rape Joke by Belissa Escoloedo and Rhiannon McGavin
Based in San Francisco, USA, Brave New Voices is a poetry slam that is dedicated to youth all around the world. It features young people, making their voices heard with regard to social stigmas and suchlike. These two young women advance an onslaught on how rape is treated as the punch line to several jokes, and long story short, How not to treat a rape survivor.
“And if you do want a healing relationship,
How do you talk about it when the language is rooting against you?
“Hey, wanna bang?”
Everything is so violent!
How to Flirt with a Rape Survivor.”
7. Retail Therapy by Lauren Zuniga
Lauren Zuniga is another award winning and published spoken word poet based in the USA. Retail therapy is one among her many poems.
“When I stand at the register,
When the bags become too heavy.
The clerk scans slowly,
Ma’am, there’s nowhere for you to go;
Ma’am, you can’t buy your way out of your shame;
You can’t eat your way out of your hurt;
You can’t lie your way out of your guilt;
You have to feel this.”
8. The Last Supper by Aashna Iyer
Featured in the Airplane Poetry Movement’s YouTube Podcast, Aashna Iyer talks about her experience when she was overweight, or as she calls it, “One word, three letters, one syllable: FAT!” Hear Aashna’s testimony that could relate to several young teenagers who believe that their appearances are everything.
“Every time I saw pride in my parents’ eyes,
Every time my family said happily,
“She’s our girl!”
Every time I did well;
My parents, my teachers, my friends,
All standing there to support me,
And all I could see was a fat girl in the mirror.
Sticking her fingers down her throat as far back as they would go.”
9. White Fetish by Dark Matter
Dark Matter is a New York City based duo of trans South Asian poets, Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramaniam. These two will tear you a new one with their poems that oppose white supremacy, marginalization of the LGBT community and orientalism. With the pinch of satire (pun intended), Dark Matter poetry voices out the struggles of being trans queer youth who are expected to yield to societal norms.
“Later that night, you will pull me aside
And take nude photos of me,
Like that time you randomly selected me from that airport security check line.
I loved that.”
10. Slam Poetry by Shantanu Anand
Shantanu Anand, one of India’s well-known spoken word poets, is the co-founder of the Pune based Airplane Poetry Movement. Shantanu is an ardent poet with the intent of making spoken word a creative platform in India. Watch him as he turns it inside out in telling you what slam poetry is.
“Even now my mind is telling me that half of you are not listening,
That my words that I direct to you float past your unrelenting ears
Out the door, into the street where they become a message in a bottle
Sent by a forlorn shipwrecked sailor
Except my words don’t float.”
So this is a just a humble list of the several spoken word poems in the plethora of podcasts on the internet. But it should get you started or keep you going the spoken word poetry way!