Sunday Monitor

Meghalaya poets show versatility on Delhi Poetry Slam platform

Main aim of the organisation is to bring attention to Indian writing in the global space

Delhi Poetry Slam organisation is a place where writers, poets and artists find solace in expressing their thoughts. The organisation with a decade-long history has worked to promote poetic voices from across India. By encouraging people to express themselves in their mother tongue, this organisation is reflecting inclusivity in every way. It has given a platform to several people from all walks of life to express their creativity.

The main aim of the organisation is to bring attention to Indian writing in the global space. In 2013, a young high-school poet, Saumya Choudhury, decided to get her friends together at a local cafe, each one performing original poetry written by them. The audience was small yet enthusiastic. The show was the encouragement Saumya needed to establish the organisation that would eventually be known around the country for its work with poets and artists.


A Shillong-based poet, Vancouver Shullai, won the first prize of Rs 1 lakh in one of their competitions. The title of the winning poem in Wingword Poetry Competition 2017 was The Wait. Shullai was also awarded a book publication for his poems by winning the competition. His debut book How to Love a Broken Man is a collection of thoughtful and honest poetry exploring varied shades of life.

Shullai has been an active part of the Delhi Poetry Slam. In 2023, he travelled to Delhi to mentor 30 poets who signed up to be part of a workshop. Other workshop leaders at this event were Nandana Dev, the winner of Wingword Poetry Prize 2023 and British poet Tansy Troy.

Over the years, Meghalaya has shone brightly in the competition with many poets emerging on the list of winning poets. The competition’s organisers believe that the idyllic setting of Meghalaya and the creative atmosphere of the hills have allowed poetry to blossom there.

North-East has always been ahead of its time and there is no dearth of artistry there. Some great poets and musicians have hailed from there, it is no surprise that Wingword has many winners coming from there.

In 2023, Riniki Chakravarty Marwein from Shillong was selected by Delhi Poetry Slam along with five other poets to travel to BITS Pilani and perform her poetry for the students at their fest.

Vancouver Shullai. Photo sourced
Vancouver Shullai. Photo sourced

“I had the most meaningful experience with the poetry world when Delhi Poetry Slam selected me to be a part of their five-member spoken word band to perform at BITS Pilani in 2023. I’m forever grateful for those couple of days of incredible discovery of talent, new friendships and the brilliant student atmosphere that BITs Pilani is. It was a treat to meet the other extremely gifted poets, travel and eat with them, and share our stories and cultures. They were genuinely interested in knowing more about Meghalaya in terms of its advanced literacy and the arts,” said Chakravarty.

“We were a diverse group but the awareness the members had of the North-East region through our talks on music, food and tourism was incredible. I value the reflective conversations we had on class, race, sexuality and how spoken word poetry has become a powerful ground for personal expressions concerning universal issues,” she added.

In the initial years of the Delhi Poetry Slam, the focus was more on spoken word poetry, an art form that originated in the USA during the 80s. Spoken word poetry events were a chance for people to come up on stage and voice their thoughts- politics and deeply personal matters in a public space using the tools of their voice and the rhythm and rhymes of poetry.

As the spoken word revolution started to spread outside of the peripheries of Delhi and took the whole nation in its grip, it was understood that people had a lot to share with others. Soon, schools and colleges across India started having their spoken word clubs and created safe spaces where voices were encouraged and not subdued.

Delhi Poetry Slam shows became popular because of the intersection of art that took place at these events, jazz musicians collaborated with poets on stage, painters did live painting as someone recited their verses, some dancers used the beat of poetry to perform exquisite moves. The motive of these shows was always to bring the underground art scene to focus. It was a great opportunity for new artists and poets to be a part of, the audience was always enthusiastic and ready for something new.

Gradually, Delhi Poetry Slam started organising programs and festivals throughout the country. They organised the Ahmedabad Poetry Festival in MICA and invited four-time Slam Champion Ikenna Onyegbula from Canada along with South African Poet Kyle Louw to workshop and perform.

Other festivals such as the Verses Playoff Festival in Bangalore, organised by DelSlam, saw famous transgender activist and poet Alok Vaid Menon perform poetry along with other musicians and comedians.

Several schools and colleges started inviting Delhi Poetry Slam to conduct spoken word and writing workshops for their students. Some notable schools that invited DelSlam are Springdales, New Delhi, Mother International School, Delhi, Oakridge International School, Bangalore, Riverside School, Ahmedabad. Delhi Poetry Slam has also been a part of institutions such as IIT, BITS Pilani, Delhi University and MICA where they conducted workshops for the students.

DelSlam has hosted several residential programs over the year for young poets and writers who wanted to develop their writing and performance under the mentorship of world-acclaimed writers. For this, DelSlam brought Ottawa’s poet laureate Jamaal Jackson Rogers to Goa and Jaipur several times.

Other notable writers who coached students at the retreat were USA’s Nicole Sumner and Britain’s Lawrence Fray. These writing retreats were attended by more than 150 writers and poets from around the country. In a country that is rich in art and culture, an organisation like this has transformed several peoples’ lives by providing them with opportunities and a safe space to express themselves.

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