A few weeks ago Marcus Hobson and ARTbop photographer Lee Switzer were lucky enough to catch up with local poet Dhaivat Mehta as he prepared for the Bay of Plenty regional heat of the NZ Poetry Slam. Marcus and Dhaivat talked about some of Dhaivat’s inspirations and asked him to tell us more about poetry slam.
Dhaivat began by telling us a bit about the rules of poetry slam. Each speaker has no more than three minutes. There are no props, just spoken word. Some people sing, some use the lyrics of a song, he had even seen someone read the haka in English. The good news is that you can read your material off a piece of paper, so those with poor memories will not be at a disadvantage. The most important thing is that you do it all with emotion. We talked about the scoring system, which is to take randomly selected members of the audience and ask them to score each slam until a winner is reached over two or three rounds.
Dhaivat says the origins of poetry slam were in North America in the 2000s, when rappers and followers of old school hip-hop were drawn to the hard hitting and often political lyrics.
Poetry was not Dhaivat’s first love. After media studies he went to film school and it was only later that he began to attend music and poetry events, finally graduating to open mike nights. He was inspired reading the Beat Generation of Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg, and the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, and he recalls a friend called Austin from Vegas warning him “Be careful, poetry is the language of god.”
Dhaivat came to live in New Zealand when he was 11 and says that while he grew up “in English” his imagination is still in India where the Hindi language and imagery have hundreds of words for the same context. He draws inspiration for his poetry from psychedelic experiences he recalls from a few years ago and has combined these with research into mystical elements, mythology and psychology, even taking the language of hip-hop and using it for a spiritual meaning. Combing cultures obviously fascinates him, where he can see parallels between stories about Thor and Zeus and the Hindu god Indra.
More recently, being part of a band enabled him to learn the finer points of what he called “song-craft”, using hooks and techniques to enchanted his poetry. Although he is still into film, his own creative output is now all about poetry and spoken word.
For now Dhaivat is motivated by the power of poetry, when it hits the subconscious and moves you to tears, when it is a hit of words and concepts. He is keen on the possibility of holding monthly poetry slams in Tauranga and feels sure that the inclusiveness of the format is enough to bring the audiences.
Catching up with him again after the local heats, he says the event was really successful, more than he expected. There were some great poets and a variety of poems, including a couple of rappers. Dhaivat particularly enjoyed the open mic section on the night, “with people doing stand up and beat boxing and we even had a punjabi rapper”.
To find out more about Poetry Slam, have a look on the Facebook page: Facebook.com/NewZealandPoetrySlam
Many thanks to Lee Switzer for his wonderful photographs, and to The Incubator for the use of their comfy sofas.
Marcus Hobson is the ARTbop Contributions Editor. He is a writer and reviewer, as well as a passionate book collector. Many of his stories feature themes of art and artists and he is married to an aspiring painter. Marcus lives at the foot of the Kaimai Ranges near to Katikati.
Katikati artist, ARTbop contributor and Affordable Art & Artisan Fair project organiser Birgitt Shannon has produced this great video to promote the Fair. . Loads of parking, great coffee, food and a wonderful area in which to present and sell art and artisan products. Not too late to have an exhibition area. This is an ongoing event and will be at the Black Sheep every last Sunday of the month recommencing in January 2018. You can contact Birgitt and the Affordable Art & Artisan Fair on firstname.lastname@example.org
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