What is it about a spoken word poet that catches the audience? Is it the poet’s voice, or the subject s/he is dealing with, or the cadence and power of its delivery? It is perhaps a kind of genuineness that spoken word poets bring in their performance.
In previous years, readers and writers were treated to many international spoken word performers at the DLF over the past few years, from Botswana’s TJ Dema, Cambodia’s Kosal Khiev and Sabrina Mahfouz of the UK in 2014 to Vuyelwa Malulenke, a South African poet, in 2016.
Earlier years saw Bangladesh’s own poets competing in a Kobi Lorai (an oral battle between the poets) in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and, in the last two years, the Dhaka-based spoken word community, Ampersand, held special performances under the Bot-tola.
This year proves to be no different. Internationally renowned spoken word artists Sophia Walker and Abe Nouk are the ones no one interested in poetry should miss out on.
Sophia Walker of the UK dubs herself a “touring poet and teaching artist” on her Facebook page, but she is more than that. She is a BBC Slam Champion who hosts and organises the yearly BBC Slam Championship, arguably the most prestigious poetry slam in the UK; she is winner of the 2012 Poetry Olympics, Edinburgh International Book Festival, and 2015 London Slam; she is also a 2015 UK representative at the World Slam Championships.
Walker is also writer of spoken word plays. Her solo shows have toured UK theatres, receiving critical acclaim as winner of Best Spoken Word Show at Edinburgh Free Fringe in 2013 and 2014, Best UK Spoken Word Show 2014 winner, and in 2015, her six-character solo show won Best Cast for a Spoken Word Show at Edinburgh Free Fringe 2015.
The Melbourne-based Abraham “Abe” Nouk found his salvation in hip-hop and spoken word poetry. In an interview with “Books and Arts,” Australia’s sole radio programme devoted to literature and the arts, he revealed he was illiterate when he arrived with his family in the island continent as one of the UN High Commission designated refugees from Sudan. Since then, Nouk taught himself English using audio books and hard-cover copies.
Having placed third in the country’s National Poetry Slam, he is now an award-winning spoken word poet with two books out, including the self-published debut collection “HUMBLE,” launched in 2013.
Nouk is also a community educator for struggling youths and uses his poetry as a medium to put a human face on the refugee experience, to raise awareness of their struggles and break misconceptions. He told Australian media group SBS earlier this year: “Getting up on stage and vocalising those pieces, to not do it would be neglecting the alliance of speaking for someone who has no voice.”