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The queerious case of spoken word: How open mics in the capital are bringing back poetry
Payel Majumdar  8th Nov 2014

A poster for Bring Back the Poets

Girl, when you
blow your boy,
or boy, when
you go down
on her, or when
both of you use
a toy, and all the
world’s a blur,
I know it feels
like heaven, you
too violate 377.
— Akhil Katyal

f you're a slam fan, you would know that some, perhaps most of the best slam poets in the world are people who identify as feminist, queer, gender-f**ky or all of these, says Aditi Angiras, founder of Bring Back the Poets. One of the relatively newer groups of poets in the city to have spoken word open-mic events and poetry slams, Bring Back the Poets is part of a bigger wave of slam poetry that's sweeping the city. This is an informal group that meets regularly at Fursat Se, a café in Shahpur Jat that hosts cultural events. Their biggest event till date is coming up on 29 November. A queer poetry slam will be part of Fursat Se's Queerious Week, dedicated to events that focus on the LGBTQ community. Spoken word poets and performers have been invited from all over the world for this event, which will take place on the day before the Delhi Pride Parade.

But be warned, this is not your typical doddering poetry reading group, there won't be poems about "clouds and rivers", as an attendee put it. A group of college graduates and young working professionals with a collective love for poetry, Bring Back the Poets Slams are meant to be "theatrical events and not listening booths". What proves compelling to audiences is that such events performatively embody the poem and the poet.

Bring Back the Poets is not the only poetry group in the town. Mildly Offensive Content, Delhi Poetry Slam and Poets Corner are some of the other groups that hold poetry around town.

Bring Back the Poets is not the only poetry group in the town. Mildly Offensive Content, Delhi Poetry Slam and Poets Corner are some of the other groups that hold poetry slams around town. Delhi had its first public poetry slam in 2013, and it was widely publicised and generously attended by participants as well as the audience. This poetry slam provided a clue to the potential popularity of such live performances. A year later, Mumbai has its own set of spoken word groups such as the Airplane Poetry Movement and Culture Shoq; Pune, meanwhile, has the Pune Poetry Slam.Image 2nd

Slam poetry has always been a people's movement, and works best when it is open for everybody. It's encouraging to see that there are open mic events for children in the capital as well, like the one that happened last Saturday in Vasant Kunj to celebrate Children's Day (organised by Poetic Adda).

"The slam culture in Delhi is growing so fast now that there is a poetry slam event every week," Angiras says. "I was part of a rap group in the past, and the rap movement is a very strong underground movement at the moment. Similarly, I felt the need for a poetry slam group."

Slam poets do not always identify slam poetry as a cultural movement. As Aditi says: "I believe that 'slam poetry' has meaning beyond the spheres of literature and performance, yielding cultural and political ramifications. As it explores the political possibilities of identity, slam poetry begs to be regarded not only as a performance poetry movement but also as a social movement. " Slam poets are meant for the masses, for people to look beyond the boundaries and syntax of literature and performance. At its best, it becomes a means for honest expressions and confessions, therapeutic for the participants and audience. True to this nature of the medium, the queer poetry slam has pointed out that one of their "rules" for the event is that if you are misogynist, homophobic or racist, you are not allowed to participate in the event. Aditi charts out the agenda for Bring Back the Poets: "What I'm trying to do with this is bring poetry out of classrooms, the academic canon and the anthologies to the streets and the cafés and the everyday lives of young people."

To contact Bring Back The Poets for upcoming events, visit their Facebook page

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