What does it take to be a SlamPoet : SAMIP DHUNGEL
You can love them, you can hate them but you cannot ignore them. Word Warriors Nepal has been spreading the magical art of poetry throughout Kathmandu (and now to other cities of the country as well) since 2010. Word Warriors are a Kathmandu-based group of young poets leading the spoken word movement in Nepal. They have been performing, conducting events, competitions and workshops, all over Nepal, sharing the platform that spoken word provides for youth expression and voice. Their workshops are helping people express themselves better as poets and making this city more artistic and beautiful. Their performances have improved tremendously since they started and they have definitely given points to ponder upon to a lot of people.
The history of Word Warriors is closely tied to their mentor, partner and parent organization Quixote’s Cove (QC) bookshop. In December 2010, the perception of poetry changed for many youths, when the bookshop, in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, organized QC Awards 2010: Voice Your Words, the first ever slam poetry event in Nepal.
A few Nepali poets and some keen participants from that slam poetry workshop and competition then decided to give continuity to this art form they had fallen in love with and in the coordination of QC, formed the Word Warriors, Nepal’s first spoken word poetry group.
One of the outstanding poets with a distinct presentation style who is a member of the spoken word poetry movement Word Warriors is Samip Dhungel who is currently working for two different projects, Write To Speak and Book Bus.A witty young Civil Engineer by degree who is a poet by choice and travels around the country and conducts workshops and performs on stage(and literally leaves people with awe after
setting the stage on fire with his words). He also takes a few pictures, and works as an unofficial documentor. He has been working as a spoken word poet for just two years but
he has definitely left a mark in such a short time. Currently he is working towards the first ever National Poetry Slam,’QC Awards 2016’ that will be held in September.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR JOURNEY AS A SLAM POET?
There wasn’t one particular moment of inspiration. It was an organic process. I was interested in poetry, both writing and performing. I’d see poetry performances on YouTube, it was very inspiring. Then, I took part in a workshop. Through the workshop I met with the word warriors. Soon, I found myself performing poems in various places in Kathmandu. I decided to just go with it. I have not looked back ever since.
DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO BE A SLAM POET?
No. Ofcourse not. I am an engineering graduate. I believed I would be an engineer. Life had other things in store for me. My mother finds it hard to believe that I actually work and get things done and thinks that I am pretending to be busy behind my laptop. Some things take time you know, but being a slam poet right now is definitely fulfilling.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN THIS PROCESS?
Trying to do something that isn’t clearly defined, puts you in a difficult place but life is not about definitions it is about feeling alive . Spoken Word Poetry is not something that a lot of people know about. A lot of people think what we are doing is an attack on the Nepali language and poetic purity. Being confronted by these ideas sometimes takes you to a place of self doubt. However, we know what we are doing. When we see the change in the participants of our workshops we know that we are headed in the right direction.
TRYING TO DO SOMETHING THAT ISN’T CLEARLY DEFINED, PUTS YOU IN A DIFFICULT PLACE BUT LIFE IS NOT ABOUT DEFINITIONS IT IS ABOUT FEELING ALIVE.
I TRY TO FIND HUMOR IN MOST THINGS AND IT PROBABLY REFLECTS IN MY WRITING TOO
WHO ARE YOU MOST INFLUENCED BY?
I do not have any one particular person whom I would name as the most influential. There are many poets that have influenced me. I would also count hip hop as an influence. I also closely follow the news. That is inspirational too. Among spoken word poets, Sarah Kay and Phil Kay are amazing. So is Taylor Mali. Rafeef ziadah and Clint Smith are other poets I admire. Among older Nepali poets, Bhupi sherchan is someone I greatly admire. Madhab Ghimire’s poems have beautiful rhymes.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ABLE TO DELIVER HOW YOU FEEL IN WORDS?
No. I do not think so. I think it is a constant challenge to be able to find the right combination of words to express my feeling. Sometimes I feel I have succeeded. It’s a great feeling when that happens. Sometimes, as they say- the struggle is real.
WHAT WAS THE REACTION OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS WHEN YOU DECIDED TO CHOOSE THIS PATH?
My parents have been supportive. They understand that what I do is something that makes me very happy. However, they also want me to have a stable secure, read regular career. My friends understand my passion for poetry. They are very supportive too.
HOW DO YOU THINK THIS HAS CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Working as a poet has changed my life to some extent. I have been able to travel around the country. I have been able to visit different cities and meet amazing people. I like how different cities have a different rhythm of life. Working as a Spoken Word Poet has changed the way I look at the world around me.
WHAT SORT OF STYLE DO YOU USE WHEN YOU WRITE / PERFORM?
I write about various things. Mostly I write for myself but sometimes I write for the audience. I like experimenting with various forms of poetry. Spoken word poems are pretty long, two pages at least. I try to write short poems as well, five to six lines. I have realized a lot of my poems revolve around my childhood experiences. I also like to work with rhymes.
YOU ARE CONDUCTING POETRY WORKSHOPS IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COUNTRY. WHAT KIND OF RESPONSE HAVE YOU HAD TILL NOW? DO YOU HAVE ANY OUTSTANDING EXPERIENCE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE BASED ON THIS?
Conducting poetry workshop is a lot of fun. I extremely enjoy doing this. There isn’t one particular experience I would like to mention above another. But because my last workshop was in Dhangadhi I will share with you something that happened. So this kid, I do not want to tell you his actual name lets say X for now. X applied for our workshop. X didn’t only write a poem for his own application form but he wrote one for his friend Y as well. Now during the selection, X was not selected and his friend Y, whose poem was also written by X,was.
Now Y wasn’t really interested in attending the workshop so, X who wasn’t selected decides to come to the workshop anyway, and attends the whole workshop in his friend’s name. After the three day workshop he gets selected to another round of intensive workshops, because you know, X writes and performs well. He finally confesses that he is not who he claimed to be after the workshop. I was really surprised, it was funny too.
YOU HAVE A DISTINCT SENSE OF PRESENTATION STYLE WITH A HUMOROUS TWIST, HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO PRESENT IT IN SUCH A WAY?
I think it is about finding your own comfortable style. In our group everyone has their own style, both in writing and performance. I try to find humor in most things and it probably reflects in my writing too. But despite this, we practice our poems again and again. This helps us improve our performance.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING POETRY PROJECT YOU HAVE INVOLVED YOURSELF IN TILL DATE?
Well I have just been involved with the Word Warriors, we work with two projects, one is the book bus, which is a mobile library that travels around the country and does programs in schools and colleges. The other is Write to speak.
YOU ARE REVOLUTIONIZING THE ART SCENARIO IN NEPAL. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
Are we? We are definitely trying to broaden the definition of poetry, I am not sure if this is a revolution already.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ASPIRE TO BE POETS?
If you like to write, write. If you like to read, read. There are so many platforms now a day for you to present your work. Lookup poets on YouTube if you enjoy watching a poem over reading it. Poetry is around us, we just need to reach out and connect.
If you would like to know more about him and wordwarriors you could check out www.wordwarriorsnepal.com.