But in retrospect I taught myself that I wasn’t there to impress, I was there to express.
Writers’ Block, as defined by Wikipedia, is a condition in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown; or, as described by a spoken word poet, ‘agony.’
2015 was when I suddenly started losing touch with my writing, when words I once loved became synonymous with anxiety that would never leave. 2016 is when I entered Symbiosis Centre for Media & Communication to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication and little did I know that my life as an artist was about to change.
Through the Literature and Debate Club I was reminded of the words of my favorite spoken word poet Sarah Kay who said:
‘Don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.
Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing.’
I then decided to go big, or go home. I auditioned to be part of the contingent being sent for India’s first National Youth Poetry slam at Bangalore. My poem titled ‘Prostitute Lane’ was one I had written after a year of silence, and as they shot the video audition my fingers trembled, my knees were weak, my eyes welled up but my heart felt free like a bird that had finally taken flight.
A few weeks later as I awaited the results with baited breath, I realised that I was going to be representing SCMC on the biggest platform for all the budding poets in the nation alongside two other very talented SCMC students Poulomi Roy and Bhavya Bhagtani.
The journey had only just begun. What awaited me next was a chance to tick off from my bucket the very first task – meet Sarah Kay – as I found out that she was attending and hosting the slam. Bangalore was nothing short of a dream – meeting the best poets from the nation, spending two days listening to words that will stay a lifetime, meeting Sarah Kay and Kalki Koechlin and being part of Team SCMC, we went in with the motto – Just Keep Slamming.
As with every fairytale, mine too had a number of barriers as we struggled to write our pieces. As emotions got the better of us, fear seemed to hold our tongues. On 17th September, as I performed in the preliminary round I felt like I had let myself down. But in retrospect I taught myself that I wasn’t there to impress, I was there to express. That day I sat up the entire night with my team as we brought to life a group piece on abortion that took the audience by storm; every snapping finger meant that we’d touched one more heart.
Finally, as all good things must, our journey was about to end. Or well, another one was about to begin. We may not have won but we were still the top 15 poets of the nation. Being a stereotypical fangirl I nervously walked up to Sarah to get an autograph when she looked at me and said ‘Are you the Johanna that performed? I am a fan.’ And time froze. And the memory artistically carved itself in the depths of my heart forever.
Article by: Johanna Israni (Batch of 2019)
Photograph by: Anonymous