Like many of my friends in the Mumbai poetry scene, I had a very set idea of what Performance Poetry was and what my performances should be like to make them powerful.
That was before I realized that the words “should”, “ideally” and “define” have very little to do with performance poetry. This is not an art form that has its rules set in stone, or demands that we follow a particular style, or theme, or voice modulation. I learned this by being a part of the *Words Tell Stories* performance poetry workshops.
The workshops usually begin with a fun energizer, followed by a free-write exercise (read out to the group only if you feel comfortable doing so). Both help participants feel safe within the space and with each other.
We also observe poetry videos and discuss the highlights and drawbacks of each performance. One of my most vivid memories is of our third workshop, where we were showed a series of Spoken Word pieces by the same performer tied together by a similar theme – and pointed out how, even though your material could be very strong, you could sometimes face the danger of falling into a repetitive pattern.
We also engage in a range of writing exercises which help us step out of our comfort zones. Some of my strongest pieces have come out from a writing exercise, and I’ve ended up using a lot of these poetry forms and techniques in my writing later, be it erasure poetry, using a single word as a trigger for a piece, or eliminating words usually used for a particular theme so as to create a fresher piece. Other exercises help us with the performance aspect; one of my favourites included taking a particularly strong/weak line from my poem, choosing a partner and reciting it in as many different ways as possible. The exercises range from helping us with content, to focusing on movement and voice modulation.
Each workshop revolves around a different aspect of performance poetry, such as the Movement and Performance Workshop (which devoted a full hour to getting us in touch with the rhythms and vibrations of our bodies and with how powerful a force movement could be in performance). These classes help us focus on the spaces we are using, connecting with our audiences and feeling more in tune with our bodies and our words.
What I like most about the workshops is how Rochelle, as a facilitator, constantly molds her lesson plans to work around the needs of each person. Even with a group which has both newcomers and people who have attended these workshops before, she will make sure that all of them take away something new from her classes.
Whether you’re new to the poetry scene, or someone who has been around for a very long time, *Words Tell Stories* definitely has something for everyone.
– Anu Elizabeth Roche
(The next Words Tell Stories poetry workshop will be held on 08/09 August in Bandra. Click here for more information on the same)