When Samip Dhungel performed his poem Chura at Kala Saahitya Utsav in Jhapa in March this year, gasps of ‘amma’, ‘wow’, ‘once more’ filled the air. At the school where he was conducting a workshop for young poets, his poem drew similar reactions.
Seeing Samip so confident and poised on stage, it was hard to believe that the 24-year-old preferred the four walls of his room as his audience. And even though he had been a member of Word Warriors, a slam poetry group since 2011, he didn’t venture out. That changed seven months ago when he attended a workshop by visiting American slam poet - Sarah Kay. Samip is now not just performing poetry, but also teaching the art.
For some, the inspiration to make the leap from page to stage comes from watching poetry performances - live or on YouTube. For others like Samip getting together with aspiring poets in a workshop helps. A group trying to spread and promote spoken word, Word Warriors provides budding artists that gentle nudge.
Formed right after the QC Awards 2010, the first slam poetry workshop and competition in Nepal, Word Warriors was more or less restricted to its Facebook page in its early days. A handful of poets began performing at events around town and slowly the art form gained recognition. Eventually, the group started organising workshops in different venues, schools, and recently held a second inter-school slam poetry competition.
This year, Word Warriors is trying to take the slam movement outside Kathmandu in search of creative voices from all over Nepal. The art and literature festival and school visits in Jhapa were a great start for two main reasons: one, Word Warriors got an opportunity to perform alongside Nepali poets like Manu Manjil, Swapnil Smriti, Bhupin, and Buddhisagar and expose the audience filled with Nepali literary stalwarts to this new kind of art form. Secondly, the excitement with which young students embraced slam poetry during the workshops and school visits with some teenagers attending the lit fest solely for the spoken word performances made us realise how thirsty Nepali youngsters are for such creative outlets, almost non-existent in our education system.
The next major event this year is the QC Awards: Slamming in Surkhet 2013. Organised by Quixote’s Cove bookshop in collaboration with Word Warriors and Kopila Valley School, six Word Warriors will travel to western Nepal for the 10-day event which begins on 1 August where they will visit schools, perform, and train teachers. Surkhet will also host its first ever inter-school slam poetry contest.
Khotang, Pokhara, Birganj, Chitwan, and Itahari are in the pipeline with plans to reach out to as many closet poets in the country as possible. That said, raising funds has and will be a major challenge as we continue to generate momentum for what we hope will be a nation-wide slam poetry competition.
Ujjwala Maharjan is a Word Warrior.
Watch videos of Word Warriors