“Poetry today belongs to walls, posters, voice, and stage,” says Gaurav Arora. A well-known spoken word poet, he introduces us to the progressive poetry scene in Delhi and emphasises the need to write on topics no one talks about.
So what exactly is spoken word poetry? “It’s poetry that is spoken and heard instead of being read,” Gaurav explains. “It brings in elements like pitch, intonation, body language, stage presence, etc.”
“When you have poetry that’s read, you can make the reader refer to a dictionary twice per line, go back and forth, and make him ponder over it. But in spoken word poetry, if the poet uses a difficult metaphor, by the time audience gets it, the poet is already 10 lines ahead.”
“You need to capture the audience’s attention in the first 30 seconds,” he adds.
indibeat catches up with him to know more about this unique style of poetry, his personal journey, and more.
IB: Tell us about your journey as a poet.
Poetry has purpose and that purpose has changed quite a few times for me. I started writing when I was in school. In college, I started a blog with the aim of making poetry more real and tangible for the common people.
In 2013, I moved to Bangalore and started a project “Grey Paper”, where I used to ask people about that one moment which changed their lives. I took those stories and wrote crisp 5-line poems for them as a memoir, and later published those on my Facebook page.
I also created Bangalore’s first open mic platform for poetry.
In 2015, I flew back to Delhi and have done more than 300 stage performances since.
IB: What are some of the challenges you faced organising spoken poetry shows?
The challenge for any poetry show organiser is to find venues, volunteers, photographers, and cinematographers who don’t charge a lot of money — and finding fests, pubs, and corporates that pay enough money.
Nevertheless, the biggest challenge is making people believe that poetry isn’t always depressing and has a lot of variety to offer.
IB: How easy or difficult is it to write about taboo subjects like religion and sex?
I don’t write about sex but the challenges we face as a society, like overpopulation, environmental degradation, immature marriages, gender diversity in offices, etc.
So many intellectuals talk about these challenges without talking about sex, which is ironic. Isn’t marital rape a consequence of premarital sex being a taboo? Debatable? People should at least debate then.
IB: Your thoughts on the emerging poetry culture amongst the youth?
Poets are breaking the barriers of a tiny room and putting their content online. They are famous and influential people (but) most of them don’t do the groundwork and the research.
A poem that reduces feminism to skin colour and body parts is not creating just a million views — but a million impressions on minds. I’m sure every poet wants to make a positive difference in the society. They should see their poems as thought drivers, and not just art pieces.
IB: Who are the other spoken word poets that people should know about?
I suggest you follow poets and poetry groups on Facebook such as Kalamkriti, which aims to teach poetry basics. Poet’s Mic brings out entertainment-oriented poetry and The Rhyme Republic encourages poetry across the Indo-Pak border.
IB: Which venues showcase spoken word poetry?
The venues keep changing but the prominent ones include The Piano Man Jazz Club at Safdarjung Enclave, Kunzum Travel Cafe at Hauz Khas, and Lodhi Gardens. You also get to witness plenty of it in colleges. You only need to discover one that resonates with you by attending them all!
Image Credit: Gaurav Arora