Like many before me, I discovered performance poetry on Button Poetry. The first time I ever performed was at a college festival competition.
I spent hours before I was supposed to go up on stage, practising with my best friend. I timed my poem, recited it, screamed it, spoke it. I didn’t end up winning, but I did end up meeting Rochelle, who judged the event, and this marked my entry into the magical and terrifying world of performance poetry.
I think that in all my few years of being in the writing scene, all I’ve ever ached to achieve is a good relationship with my audience, be it five people or twenty or two hundred. Performer/audience relationships have always fascinated and pulled me in. You know the moment when you’re watching a concert video, and the music artist stops and points their mic to the audience and the crowd finishes the line of the song?
As a performer, I’ve yet to become particularly good. And it all stems from believing that going up on stage and telling the audience all my secrets suddenly entails being made fun of. The truth is (and it’s taken me a while to accept) people want to like you. When you take your poetry and perform it, people want to be moved. They aren’t waiting for you to mess up so they can go home and talk about you.
When I see poets like Jasmine Mans, Neil Hilborn, Tonya Ingram and Clementine Von Radics, they help me believe that people want to like me. That if I am on a stage and waving my arms and crying and sweating and complaining, people want to relate.
(Isha Joshi is a 16 year old poet, artist, intersectional feminist and prodigy. She spends her time reading How To Get Away With Murder fanfiction, doing her makeup, and putting on fake concerts in her room. You can read her work here.)