A First Timers Take on Youth Poetry Competitions

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On July 22, Saturday, I spent my day at Kathmandu Model College, in Balkumari surrounded by some of the most daring poets within Kathmandu Valley. As I walked into the room, where all the poets were seated patiently, the first thing I noticed was the excitement and jitters. There is no doubt that performing spoken poetry is something that takes a lot of courage, not just because you are performing in front of many people, but because once you start speaking on that stage, you are putting your raw opinions, thoughts and experiences out there for everyone in the room to interpret. So, I had my doubts about how the competition may go.

My responsibility for the event was that of a timekeeper. I was to wave the flag at three minutes to let the poets know that they had 10 seconds to round up. Anyone who would’ve heard the job description of a timekeeper would say that it was the easiest job on the planet, but let me tell you, don’t judge it before you’ve tried it. Once the poets took the stage, I was amazed by the confidence with which they performed. In that moment, it was as if all the nervousness they felt and the doubts they had, left their body as the passion they had for poetry transcended all else. The participants shared opinions about constellations, feminism, womanhood, turned their emotionally draining experiences into powerful stanzas that captivated us. It made my task of simply keeping time a lot more challenging.

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Usually in school, students wait for breaks because it allows them to walk around and wake themselves up. However that Saturday, break time was time needed to fathom all the bold opinions laid out on stage and understand the ways life can be perceived – unfair, treacherous, sunshine or rainbows. The best part was that it was all okay, everyone’s feelings were valid and respected, something I feel is lacking in our society.

After each of the performers had recited their poems, the judges, who were bloggers, poets and all talented artists, graded the competitors. While it was sad to see only 20 finalists make it to the next round when I thought many more deserved that chance, it was refreshing to see the judges and organizers be supportive of everyone and repeatedly ensure that participants did not leave feeling demotivated. As our MC Nischal Neupane kept saying, “the point is not the point, the point is poetry.” To hear such encouraging words repeatedly and to say it out loud ourselves, was  enough to believe it, I think that not only the poets, but the visitors left the QC awards 2017 audition event feeling inspired.

At the end of the day, what I took away from the experience was a greater appreciation for Nepal and its youth poets. I came to realize that being bilingual can be seen as a ‘eureka moment’ for us writers because it gives us an opportunity to translate our thoughts into words more accurately due to the greater vocabulary at our disposal. It is empowering. To see writers making using of this advantage was inspiring and encouraged me to try out the same.

Many say that Nepal is not a country where literature is appreciated. Our society tells us that certain career paths are better than others but with incredibly rich and diverse culture, Nepal is truly a breeding ground for poetry. Through QC Award auditions, 83 poets shared their work and as I keep seeing everywhere at Quixote’s Cove, the event was one that truly made me walk out saying, “कविता is cool.”

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