Is it possible that poetry is cool these days? As surprising as it might sound, that might well be the case. Spoken word is getting a lot of attention recently. On 28 July, young poets from all over Nepal gathered at Tourism Board for the QC Awards 2017, a spoken-word poetry competition.

Nayan P. Sindhuliya, a spoken-word poet involved with a poetry group called Word Warriors, described the experience with the form as empowering. “It gives people with explosive, angsty characters an ideal platform to express themselves,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything getting such a good response.”

Here’s a powerful example by  Ujjwala Maharjan, one of the most popular spoken-word poets around.

Beyond the opportunity to stand and rage, young poets see spoken word as a vehicle for free creative expression. They find it refreshing after having gone through an education system that only offers them conventional poetry. No longer are these poets bound by rules of traditional Nepali poetry, or the sober vocabulary of old-fashioned verse.

For new poets, spoken word is how they talk about politics, love, mental health, and violence. From mundane daily experiences to questions of identity, gender, and harassment, these poems give them a social and political space they usually don’t have access to.

Then there is the satisfaction that comes from getting instant feedback when on the stage. “The competition was tough. The appreciation from the audience felt extraordinary,” says Prashuma Rai, one of the winners of QC Awards 2017. All five winners from this year were women.

Above all, spoken-word poetry makes the right gestures to move the audience. Movement and rebellion, after all, have always been the point of poetry.

Ujjwala Maharjan demonstrates.

Photo credit: Word Warriors