Word Warriors Live: Juneli June

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Written by Sudikchya Shrestha

 

The latest Word Warriors Live on June 16 was called Juneli June. It was not a full moon day. It was named such with a hope that the poetry would provide the moonshine.

The venue was the ground floor of Layaku Cafe, Basantapur where a small stage was set for the performers. As with most cafes nowadays. Layaku Cafe was screening the World Cup on a TV in their first floor. Sometimes, we would hear hooting at a distance which would be initially confusing. Was that in response to the words being spoken by our poets on stage? The confusion was then easily dismissed when we remembered that poetry audience are far more civilized, exclusively reacting with finger snaps.

The most common topics were love & romance and questions about identity. And understandably so. They are universally confusing topics that have troubled many generations of poets and materialized into countless poems. Such ruminations are also generally relatable to the audience who tend to be sympathetic towards the need to write and speak about them in any attempt of gathering sense.

Prior to the event, we had sent out a call for poetry submissions and from over 40 submissions, 13 Nepali and English poems were chosen. On the day, the 13 performers were invited early for a workshop lead by Larisa Shrestha where they each wrote a few assumptions people have about them that actually hold true. Before the poets performed, these assumptions were used to introduce our poets, allowing the audience some context to where the stories came from. For one poet, the assumption was a love for ghazal, but the MC misread it as gazal (kohl). Unfortunately, we did not ask him if the latter also held true. After the curated event, the stage was opened for open mic performances. Due to the large interest from the audience, we had to hold a lucky draw and limit it to 7 poems.

Juneli June was organized with the goal of connecting budding poets from around Nepal to each other. This extends from one of the main projects of the Word Warriors which is to reach spoken word poetry to different parts of Nepal. In the past, they have travelled in the Book Bus, a bus repurposed to transport artists and educators such as the Word Warriors to schools in Birgunj, Illam, Biratnagar among other places. Many students around Nepal that participated in the Word Warriors Workshops and contests have recently come to Kathmandu for further studies, or in search of work. By and large, Juneli June was envisioned as a networking opportunity.

For me, Juneli June was a nice portal to the Nepali Youth. I have been studying abroad for the last four years and in that time, of course, the ever dynamic Kathmandu city has changed. Juneli June reminded me of the capability of Kathmandu to hide stories and secrets within its chowks and gallis. Juneli June made me feel both accepted and aloof through inside jokes I understood and humor I did not. Juneli June confirmed that Kathmandu is undeniably an interesting place to hold a poetry event, being both a melting pot and a metaphor. In fact, somebody’s poem at Juneli June paid homage to this incredibly city by making a one to one analogy between their life and the city.

 

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