En Route to Slam Poetry via Goal Session Lessons

August 8, 2016 by Akhil Saxena

We conduct goals session at Niswey, at which everyone makes professional and personal resolutions. Making resolutions is not a new concept. After all, we have all been doing it since our childhoods… like the New Year Resolutions which we make on 1st January and forget by 10th January. Well, therein lies the difference—goals at Niswey are discussed and tracked throughout the year. I also set a goal for myself last year: to become a slam poet.

Slam poetry is the competitive art of performance poetry, which means one has to recite a poem while conveying a lot of depth through their emotions and actions.

It was easy to say in the session, but I was yet to figure out how to do it. So here, I used my first takeaway from the goals session.

There is a process behind everything. What you want to do is just a goal. What you are going to do to reach that goal is what really matters.

Coincidentally, just a few days ago I had read about a prominent slam poetry society in Delhi, DelSlam, which used to host monthly slam poetry events. I attended one of them and talked to different performers to get a feel for the atmosphere.

The format of slam poetry is also completely different from that of poems that are meant to be read. Slams are expected to be around three minutes long. This meant that I had to first write a poem way longer than I was used to.

I picked a topic, started writing, and then, within a month, deided to perform at the Open Mic at one of the popular cafes of Delhi. I could hardly look up from my mobile screen.

Stage performance is a different ball game. It can make the most confident of people nervous, and here I was, a novice who had just dived into the sea without even learning how to swim.

I performed at another Open Mic. There was some improvement, but it wasn’t really a performance. I also recited my poem for people at Niswey, and got some comprehensive feedback. I had the zeal to perform, and used to feel a completely different person while performing, but this wasn’t getting through to the audience. Here, the next takeaway from Niswey’s goals session proved helpful.

Measure your goals. Zeal and intent are catalysts, but you also need to be realistic and keep tracking your improvement. And find ways to correct yourself.

Soon I joined a workshop of DelSlam, at which acclaimed international poets would come to teach beginners the nuances of slam poetry. I also started working on my weak points. The toughest was memorizing the entire poem. I had never been good at learning things by heart, and here I had to learn the entire poem, word by word.

With some practice, I started improving and could now recite the entire poem in front of a mirror. My recitations at workshops gave me a boost, and I got my first opportunity to give a slam poetry performance at NSIT, a premier engineering college in Delhi.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I recited my slams at Niswey as well.

People at Niswey, like always, were encouraging. This helped bring a lot of positivity into my efforts. Such a positive atmosphere tends to strike a deep chord of love, which is the central emotion of our lives. I guess I can explain it better through couple of lines from one of my slams.

If you believe life is to be lived, and life is to be loved, then you will live to love. Because, once you live to love, then you will love to live. And when you stop looking for love, and look around to find everywhere love, then there is no looking back.

Indeed, there was no looking back, and I quickly got another opportunity to perform at IIT Mandi, a new IIT campus in the middle of mountains.

It was actually quite an achievement for me. Because the last time I was on stage in any capacity was way back in school. To be precise, it was in second grade, where I became a sunflower that was supposed to keep sitting in the backdrop.

I believe I still have a long way to go—a lot of slams to perform and bigger goals to realize.

But I am not worried about them. I have learned a few key lessons which can make things happen for me.