On Spoken Word As A Sort Of Shamanism

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This appeared in the Chennai edition of The Times of India today, under the “What’s Hot” section.

Years ago, I read that when a woman weaves out of her iyari, she doesn’t need to copy a design. I took this to heart, or took it back into my heart, rather – iyari is the Huichol concept of heartmemory. Eventually, I would twine this with the concepts of duende – the dangerous driving force behind Andalusian flamenco deep song – and ananku – the lost Tamil idea of the sacred malevolence in certain objects and locations, including the woman’s body.

To me, although widely divergent geographically, this trinity of concepts represent one and the same. It is what I enter and try to evoke in performance. I’ve been doing spoken word since I was 15 years old, long enough for me to know my element and try to draw others into theirs. So I teach, and co-organise events. Spoken word is my shamanism.

Having experienced firsthand the transcendental and transformative power of poetry in performance when it hits a point of alchemy somewhere between rock concert and book reading (but not, as some may have you believe, theatre), I am convinced that Chennai is ripe for it.

What I’ve said must sound terribly pretentious. And I’ll tell you the big secret: it is. Ironically, vocabulary limits us when trying to describe the overwhelming. But music, words, visuals and movement have saved my life time and again. Who hasn’t lived through a night sustained by a single song, or sat in the cinema and wept until everyone else in the hall had left? This is why I do what I do. Because art is meaningful. Ultimately I myself, my great loves and disasters and fears, may mean nothing. But what I create on this time on earth could – just maybe – make someone, somewhere, feel less lonely for just one profound moment. And that is enough.

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3 responses »

  1. “Because art is meaningful… what I create on this time on earth could – just maybe – make someone, somewhere, feel less lonely for just one profound moment. And that is enough.”

    You just went and reminded me why we all write or paint or dance or sing. Thank you. *hugs*

  2. Frankly I could not understand what you are saying. Could you please elaborate. It seems you are in a hurry to share with your insight and inspiration and poured it out as they came. Sorry.

  3. Hugs, Kenny. :)

    T Azeez — You’re right. It’s pretty hard to say much with a 300 word limit. I’ve talked about the three concepts I use to think about my work (in particular my first book of poems) before, and I will again. So stay tuned.

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