In Kathmandu, performance poetry is explodingYukta Bajracharya’s work aligns itself with contemporary forms of poetry—from ones filled with angst and romance to others that connect with the tribulations and emotions that today’s youth, especially women, face.
Yukta Bajracharya’s work aligns itself with contemporary forms of poetry—from ones filled with angst and romance to others that connect with the tribulations and emotions that today’s youth, especially women, face. Bajracharya, who initially started out as a poet because of how it stimulated and moved her, has now transitioned from a performance poet to one who is more engaged in teaching poetry to students and youth from across Nepal.
Bajracharya, along with her team the ‘Word Warriors’, began to organise monthly spoken word poetry events that brought together poetry buffs in pleasant, picturesque surroundings.
“Appearing in front of a vast multitude of people and presenting your emotions in an unconstrained and vulnerable manner is not something happens often,” says Bajracharya.
The Word Warriors organise workshops at various educational institutions to bring poetry to young people and also provide them with a platform to acknowledge and embrace their emotions through creative avenues.
For young poets like 25-year-old Bajracharya, poetry has become a medium through which they can express themselves without hindrance. Poetry in Kathmandu has now taken on more of a performative aspect, coming out of cloistered events and books to cafes and restaurants that host poetry recitations. Along with the setting, the people in poetry have also diversified. Unlike in the past, both the youth and veterans now share the stage, performing their own personal styles of poetry.
Spoken word poetry, slam poetry and open mic nights have proliferated in recent times, with many poetry initiatives
hosting platforms of their own interests with a common goal of furthering poetry.
Among these is a poetry act called KavyanKur, started by Rajendra Shalabh, a renowned poet and filmmaker, to keep the spirit of poetry alive.
A member of the Word Warriors performs at a poetry event in the Capital. Photo courtesy: Astra Mic/Word Warriors
“The self is vulnerable and creative. It only needs a platform to grow and we provide it with that opportunity,” says Shalabh. At KavyanKur artists perform dramatic poetry alongside a stage act based on their poetry for an hour. KavyanKur features one poet on the 15th of every Nepali month at the Rastriya Nach Ghar in Kathmandu. The stage act is performed with the help of 40 artists in total. With a slogan of ‘agraj lai samman, naya lai protsahan’ (respect for veterans, encouragement for youngsters), they try to bring together artists from all generations. The poetry is in both English and Nepali, giving poets the freedom to convey their sentiments in an unimpeded fashion.
“At events like these, artists not only get to share their poetry in front of a live audience and gain confidence, but are also recognised for their talent,” says Shiwansha Shrestha, co-founder at Astra Mic Night, an open mic event that takes places every other Thursday at Doko Deli, a restaurant in Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur.
Astra Mic Night is jointly organised by Shiwansha Shrestha, Alan Jung Thapa and Kapil Bhandari, students pursuing their bachelor’s degree and belonging to different backgrounds, as a platform to bring together artists of all forms like poetry, singing, stand up comedy, and have them perform regularly. They envision a society where the performing arts are as valued as any other profession. Every fortnightly recital is recorded and put up online.
“Coming here regularly, you get a chance to become a featured artist. When you start getting validation for your talent, you just want to get better at it and give your audience their share of pleasure,” says Subigya Paudel, 19, who performs poetry regularly at Astra Mic Night.
Near the Doko Deli, at the NexUs Culture Center in Bakhundole, a similar open mic night takes place every second Tuesday of the month. NexUs Open Mic Nights welcome poets, singers, musicians, and stand up comics to come and perform their works—along with public outreach and recognition through social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.
“The people at NexUs are warm and welcoming. The chance to enjoy poetry, live music and laugh at jokes made by stand-up comics, along with a sip of coffee or some mouthwatering delicacies is like frosting for your soul,” says 28-year-old Dolly Jain, who performs spoken word poetry at NexUs Open Mic Nights.
Thanks to platforms like these, performance poetry has exploded in the Capital. Guided along by veterans, a new generation of young poets are exploring their creative outlets, free of encumbrances. Open mic nights like these provide young people with the confidence to pursue creative outlets.
“I’d never have grown as a poet had these platforms for expressing myself not existed. It’s through these open mic nights that I was able to gather the courage to perform my poems and also got a chance to improve by listening to other poets,” says Jain. “It’s been a great time learning from them.”