From the title of my blog many of you may have guessed that I love poetry. So much so, that I am a spoken word poet. It always feel weird to say that, as if I don’t have the right to give myself the title of ‘poet’. But, it’s true!
Since 2017, I’ve been a part of the London spoken word poetry community, hopping from open mics to poetry slams to gigs, sharing my poetry with people. And seeing as March marks the first time I ever performed at an open mic, I thought it would be fun to reflect on my journey, and think about 5 things I wish I knew before I became a spoken word poet.
1) Poetry is personal
This may seem obvious, but is something I need to remind myself of even today. The UK and London poetry scene is extremely diverse in style. You have wonderful poets like Cecillia Knapp who use overwhelmingly emotional imagery, like Harry Barker who move their mouth at speeds I cannot even comperehend, and poets like Anthony Anagoroxu who take a more rap-style approach, commenting on social issues and political events.
But my love of poetry stemmed from the American poet Phil Kaye. He is a poetry God in my eyes, and ironically looks a little like Jesus. But because of this, my spoken word has a more narrative, more American style. And I wish I could have told myself it’s OK to have a preference, and be a little different! The poetry community is wonderful and welcoming. No one will shoot you for enjoying something more than something else.
2) Success is random
This one goes for any creative career, I feel. Being a ‘successful’ poet, being paid to perform or being a featured poet, is based on factors no one can control. But I’ve now learnt, you can use this to your advantage. Don’t compare yourself to other people. If poetry is personal, you can make your definition of success personal too.
3) There is an underlying competitive vibe
Now, if it was just me saying this I wouldn’t have included this one. But so many other poets I’ve spoken to agree with me. Even if you’re just at an open mic night, there is always a weird underlying pressure to be the best spoken word poet there, despite the strong sense of community. I feel like this probably stems from the lack of opportunities for poets. Everyone wants their chance at being the best to further their spoken word career. And there isn’t really any way to get around it other than focusing on yourself. I wish someone just came up to me and said
You do you, boo.
4) Working on your craft is more important than anything else
This releasation was IMMENSLEY POWERFUL for my poetry. (And it came out of a conversation with the wonderful poet Shruthi Chauhan). It’s definitely something more poets, and writers of any kind in fact, need to hear. The time when you are working on your poetry, is the time you are actually being a poet. For spoken word I think you can also count performing, but a good performance stems from writing that is open, authentic, and true to yourself. Which brings me onto my final point…
5) Don’t change your poetry for an audience
Listen, as a brown poet, shit gets tough. In the early days when I’d perform at specific open mics, much of the audience used to be white, or sometimes fully white. And often, I’d just take out poems that had anything to do with my British-Indian identity. Why? Because I thought it would be something the audience wouldn’t understand, and/or wouldn’t vibe with. But over the years I’ve learnt to not do that, and not change my poetry, or myself, for the sake of an audience’s approval. If they don’t like my poetry, then can leave. And if they’re a racist, I’ll just yeet them out the audience like so:
And if you want to hear me talk about even more things I wish I knew before starting my spoken word poetry journey, you can check out my YouTube video here:
But what about you – do you like poetry? Who are your favourite poets/poems? Let’s chat in the comments! ❤️
And until next time, I hope you’re having a wonderful day/night/evening/afternoon – all the things. And I’ll see you in the next post 🙂