All poetry is real poetry.
Walk into a room and ask anyone for their definition of poetry.
No two people will be able to give you the same answer. Poetry’s
become the fastest growing art form in Britain and that isn’t just
from traditional poets or from printed collections. It is in no
small part due to the resilient and powerful work of performance
poets and spoken word artists.
When I write poems, I approach the mediums I place them
on with equal importance – whether I put them on a blog, on
Instagram or submit them to literary journals. It never occurred
to me that posting my work in a certain medium would mean I
would then be defined by that medium. This is why I find such a
kinship with performance-based poets.
To define a poet who performs their work as a ‘slam poet’,
and to suggest that ‘slam poets’ aren’t ‘real poets’ is a myopic
misrepresentation of the work they do. There is no such thing as
slam poetry – simply poetry that works in slams. There are no slam
poets, only poets who, with immense craft, have the added the skill of
performing their work in a way that enthralls an audience. One
kind of poetry is not superior to another due to the format it is
produced or shared in.
For years, poetry has been misconceived as an area of elite
literature which is for the privileged few to craft, learn or teach a
certain way. It has been sequestered to the classroom as something
that made us groan as we studied and peeled layer after layer off
Milton’s work in an attempt to understand just what he meant.
But what if there was a different version of poetry? What if we
let it out of the classroom and put it on stage? What if poetry is
remembered to be what it is: the language of fire, fury and freedom?
What if, and bear with me, poetry was for everyone again?
This is exactly what performance poetry is about. It reminds us
of the revolution poetry incites. People from all walks of life flock
to venues or YouTube to watch their favourite poets perform on
stage, using language they can relate to, incorporating humour with
tragedy in an almost Shakespearean way. Slams are an inclusive,
open space, giving poets from under-represented communities a
supportive environment to share their truth, and presenting it in
a format so easily accessible and unpretentious, that people who’d
never engaged with poetry before are finally able to
Slam!, the anthology curated this year, is a manifesto for
change in many ways. It is a manifesto for performance poetry,
the craft and beauty of it and the way it resonates with millions of people. It is a manifesto for
poetry itself, as poets are natural truth-tellers and bring us face
to face with honesty in a time where fact is being dismissed for
opinion. It is a manifesto for compassion and how important it
is in a world that is ever more divided.
The poets in this book are awe-inspiring. Their work is
transcendent, both on the stage and on the page. Without them,
poetry would not be what it is today: empowering, immensely
emotive, approachable, wise, humorous – and all of this whilst
being stunningly and thoughtfully constructed.
As it has been said by our ancestors in
art, let the work speak for itself. After all, poetry is not a luxury,
certainly not in the world we
live in today. It is a war cry – a battle song. And you’re gonna
wanna hear this.
Nikita Gill is a British-Indian writer and poet living in the south of England. With a huge online following her words have entranced hearts and minds all over the world. She is a passionate advocate for poetry in all forms and her collection of rewritten Fierce Fairytales along with her latest book of poetry Wild Embers have taken the world by storm.