I think, therefore I slam

Slam poetry has much power in its lines to make people take note of issues it raises

gallery-image Poem people: Darshan Rajput
gallery-image Yahya Bootwala

When I write on terrorism, I want people to realise that as long as terror exists, terrorists will survive. So, my poem on terrorism has this line—Aatankwadi ko to sab maar rahe hai par aatankwaad ko kaun maar raha hai? [Everyone is killing terrorists, but who will kill terror?],” says Darshan Rajput, a slam poet who has initiated discussions on social issues such as child abuse, mental health problems, suicide and terrorism.

I am what I write. I write about women because I feel about them, and I have been living those characters in my life. - Pooja Sachdeva, slam poet in Mumbai

Slam poetry is a bit different from traditional poetry—it is narrated live, or is recorded for the digital mediums. Though it is perceived as a means to raise awareness, most poets share a slice of life to make the poetry interactive.

While doing research for one of his poems, the 24-year-old Rajput, who is an engineer, could not find any article on the difficulties of a male single parent bringing up a girl child in India. The lacuna encouraged him to talk about it. “People always talk about the problems women face as single parents, but no one talks about it from a man's perspective,” he says.

Bikram Bumrah Bikram Bumrah

Slam poets often use the medium to share their opinions. Pooja Sachdeva, who shifted from Delhi to Mumbai to become a song writer, is now a slam poet and she expresses her thoughts on women's problems. “I am what I write. I write about women because I feel about them, and I have been living those characters in my life,” she says.

Sachdeva is a fearless performer who narrates the desires and fantasies of women. In Main Hu Aaj Ki Cinderella (I am the modern Cinderella), she talks about women who prefer Gucci shoes over Prince Charming. In Ankhon Ankhon Wala Pyaar (Old school love), she talks about the kind of love today's women need, and in Haan Main Characterless Hoon (I accept being characterless), she criticises men who slut-shame women.

Bikram Bumrah of Amritsar is a computer engineer by day and a slam poet by night. He narrates slam poems in Urdu and Punjabi on love, beauty and philosophy, and uses metaphysical elements to express emotions. “Sufi poets are my biggest inspiration. I use nature to describe beauty and love,” he says. Unlike traditional poetry, there aren't any rules of rhyme in slam poetry. Most people describe it as free verse.

Yahya Bootwala is known for his works like Shayad Wo Pyaar Nahi (Maybe it was not love), Bol Na (Speak out), Shehar (City) and Kya Koodna Zaruri Tha (Was it necessary to jump). Bootwala, after graduating in mass media, had become an emotional wreck when he was unable to find a job. In September 2016, he started writing slam poems to overcome his emotional turmoil.“In the poem titled Cycle, I persuade people not to lose hope if they fail to achieve their goals. The poem, till date, has had 2.1 million views on YouTube,” he says. He got a job with a radio channel, but continues to write slam poems on love and life.

Pooja Sachdeva Pooja Sachdeva

Mumbai-born Gaurav Tripathi's most recent poem, Jungle Ka Kanoon (Laws of the jungle) compares the laws of the jungle with that of the society. “Had I told people randomly that cities are worse than jungles, they would not have understood my point. That is the power of slam poetry,” he says.

Slam poets research on the topic they decide to recite. “You need to read books, ghazals and poetry,” says Tripathi. “Talking to fellow poets also helps, and it is through their poetry that you learn about the structure. Rhythmic poetry is catchy, but free verse poetry has a connect. People these days prefer listening to things that they can relate to, and that is why slam poetry is grabbing attention.”