American Center holds ‘Poetry Slam’

Saturday, 5 November 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The American Center in Colombo held its ‘Open Mike Competitive Poetry Slam’ at the American Center Auditorium on 27 October.

Introduced for the first time in Sri Lanka, the ‘Poetry Slam’ called out to poets, spoken word stars, rappers and performance artistes.

With an award for the best performer and free entrance, the event drew 12 participants in all, including a few children.

As US Embassy Press, Cultural and Educational Affairs Director Christopher Teal explained, each culture has its own take on this unique genre of poetry. “Slam poetry has become very international. I think a lot of people assumed poetry was a dying art form and maybe in a lot of ways it was. It was something you read by dead white guys from Europe, but poetry as an art form didn’t really die. The modern era has seen quite a lot of changes. Slam poetry has a lot of energy and a lot to say,” he said.

“Art in general gives you the ability to have commentary on issues in society. It also gives you an outlet – a way to celebrate. It is encouraging to see a few brave souls here. This is actually the first time that slam poetry is being done in Sri Lanka. And when this programme ends, we will be uploading the performances on YouTube in order to share the talent here in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with the world and let people see how good Sri Lankan poets are,” Teal added.

Taking the stage at that point, US Embassy Outreach Director Hector Gonzalez, who was the moderator, explained the rules and started out by reading a poem himself, as the “sacrificial poet” to kick off the event.

He scored 19 marks and set the bar for the rest of the performers, who took turns to read out/perform their pieces.

A young girl, Rochelle, was the first of the performers to take the stage with her piece on faith, which scored 20, and she was followed by Manu, who read out a poem in Sinhala on a one-sided conversation with the night and seeing it in different perspectives, along with English translations, which scored 19.

With Hector encouraging the poets all the while, it was Niroshan’s turn and he caused a bit of excitement by first sitting on the floor and then performing his piece on being a soldier, delivering it in a captivating manner and using the floor space to the maximum. He scored 25.

A little four-year-old boy, Senuka, then quickly recited his poem, probably intimidated by all the adults staring at him, and scored 18, after which another little girl, Devni, came on and scored 24 with her confident delivery.

Oshani was next, scoring 25 and then Lakmali, whose performance was full of facial expressions and action on the power of the ballot. She scored 28.

Bee came on next, talking about Facebook and his life on it, scoring 21. He was followed by Samberi’s delightful performance on being inspired by her mother’s nagging to write a poem, scoring 25.

Shaun performed next, another small boy, who scored 18, followed by Pabasara’s piece on school, which also scored 18. Then it was time for the final performance of the evening, an emotional delivery by Kasturi on love, scoring 24.

Lakmali Manamperi emerged as the winner of the competition and was awarded her prize, followed by consolation prizes for the rest of the performers.

A student of the Department of English – University of Sri Jayawardenepura, 22-year-old Lakmali speaking on her win told the Daily FT that she wrote her piece shortly after the recently-concluded elections, during which several killings took place.

Pix by Upul Abayasekara