Spoken Word Literally

Shout out loud!

In January 2015, more than a hundred young people took part in an introductory workshops held at two different venues in Kathmandu. The workshops, which were facilitated by Ujjwala, Yukta, Samip and Anudeep from the Word Warriors, inspired the participants to explore spoken word poetry and make the art form their own.

Instructors Ujjwala and Samip reflect upon their experience:

Ujjwala:
When it was Khusi’s turn to share her poem during the workshop, she decided to recite a poem she had written a while back. She stood in front of her workshop mates and recited a poem in which she declared that even though she could not see, she would not let her disability stop her from doing things she wanted to do and that she would not let anybody else use it against her either.

As soon as she finished her poem, Prabin Bastola, the most inquisitive and excited student in my class, stood up and started clapping as he slurred out his words, “Gwood. Sab bha da ram ro….” Prabin has a speech impediment and it is sometime hard to figure out what he is saying but none of us in the room needed to comprehend his words to understand what he wanted to say at the moment.

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That moment was my “wow” moment during the two workshops we did for two consecutive Saturdays and Sundays (Jan 17th,18th and Jan 24th and 25th ). Khusi’s poem wasn’t the best piece I got to listen to during those sessions, (and there were some amazing ones), it wasn’t a spoken word poem (in a strict stage performance sense), and it didn’t use as many poetic devices we had been talking about in the workshop either, but none of that mattered.

For Prabin, it was the best thing he had heard. The moment he shared with Khusi is exactly what we, as a spoken word group aim for- people coming together in one room and through poems, finding an affinity you never expected with complete strangers.

These workshops presented me with an opportunity to work with and share experience with people from such diverse backgrounds (participants from the best IB league schools, government schools, different organizations for differently abled and other minority groups) that I normally wouldn’t have come across in our usual poetry workshops or any other setting. Yes, the diversity meant that some students were at a completely different level than others. That disparity in intellectual abilities presented a challenge for us: Was everyone involved and engaged at the same level? Were the prompts challenging enough for them? Were we going too fast?

That’s a challenge that we as educators will have to work out in the future. But I hope for now, the students had fun, they learned new things about people and themselves if not about poetry, and that they are excited for more.

Prabin, I know, is. And so is Khusi. I remember the wide eyed faces of young writers that discreetly voiced “I’m loving this and I’m glad to be here” during the classes. I can relate to that look, because I wore it on my face when I was first introduced to the art form during a workshop organized by three wonderful spoken word poets in 2010. It was the first time I had been in a room with that many poetry struck young people like myself. At that time, even before the workshop ended, I knew I wanted more of it- more poetry, more conversation with poetry struck people, more of that creative energy that was present in that room. I hope the young writers I met during these workshops do as well. I surely am looking forward to more from them.

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Samip:

Sudip, always smiling.

Sudip, always smiling.

After running around Kathmandu for about six months scouting participants, getting into numerous workshops, and conducting a few ourselves- it was time for the WTS and QC AWARDS introductory workshop. After Sarah Kay’s Visit last December, we now had a definite structure for our workshop. Concise ‘Teaching Goals’, ‘Classroom Values’ and ‘Workshop Outcomes’ written down on paper- fancy !
These workshops were different. We were very structured, timed, we had prepared, rehearsed, made necessary modification in the prompts- Nepalified them! And more importantly drawn out inclusive activities for participants with and without disabilities, for participants coming in from different social classes and for participants coming from private school, government Schools, Madrassa and some from schools for Children with special needs.

I was there, in front of the class- the most diverse group of young minds I have ever worked with. And it was amazing. The class was alive with sensory details, metaphors and similes from different corners of the Nepali society. Participants were very good with sharing their work, and it was not only me that was interested in listening to what they had to say. They would come in early after their lunch break so that they we would have some more time than designated to share the poems they had written.

However, all that structure did take its toll on the spontaneity in conversation, there was less room to expand on particular questions or topic that would pop up in classroom interaction. However, learning never stops and this experience will help us improve our other workshops.

Students were very honest with their feedback. Some saying- “Give more workshops like these” while some said- “You guys are the coolest teachers, ever !”. One particular participant declaring his verdict with his arms in air -“This Workshop Sucks.”

And then he smiled. I really hope that was said in jest.

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