of KL "Go Green" Poetry SLAM
The second KL Poetry Slam, themed "Green", was held at the Loft at Zouk, on the 26 April 2008.
The Slam posed an interesting topic and theme to the poets with a wide swathe territory for them to explore, though not much is made of this with only a few avenues explored. Most slammers simply referenced the colour or the usual glimpses of green-eyed envy in their poetry rather than actually developing anything interesting based upon that tantalizingly green theme. This brings to my mind the question of what is the point of the theme in the first place. No mention was made of penalizing poetry that does not follow the theme as well. Why make a central theme and then abandon it for convenience's sake? The event while still fun, feels as if a stilted portrayal of the theme it supposedly seeks to parade. In my humble opinion of course, maybe I missed some inferences or am blind to the colour the poems painted that night. Is the Slam a place where you simply dusted off old poems and insert a line or two or is it an arena to challenge poets to challenge themselves and write fresh verses upon the appointed theme? Something to ponder.
There was also an outbreak of "Poetry Idol" fever as a couple of people actually sang their pieces. This irked me personally as I had asked ahead and was told that it is not the thing to do. Still there is that thing called poetic and artistic license I supposed. Who dares sing! But again, on principle I wonder if there are point deductions for this. I would have stayed quiet had not Jacob Sam-La Rose made a good point to me in his workshop. Singing actually takes away from the poetic experience. It cheapens the weight of the lines with the pandering of its musicality. Creating a buffer that separates the poet from the audience. A poetry performance must be about contact, full contact, mind body and soul, not the disinterested crooning that it becomes when the poet becomes lost in the act of singing. Fine if they are singers but they are supposed to be poets!
Another issue mentioned is of course the reign of the "Mat Saleh", if you pardon my Malay idiom, the preeminence of foreign-born or foreign nationals in the Slam. I personally see no problem with this. It is an event of spoken word for poetry in English, thus I would guess that to be fair, those born with the familiarity of the language will of course be more fluent in it hence make better performers for English poetry. But it may also be because that the poetry scene in Malaysia just started and thus it still takes time for locals to develop.
This brings to head another issue with regards to speaking, or more correctly, voices. Apparently some people think that the Malaysian-born poets that performed that night and indeed all over Malaysia are not speaking and writing in their own voices, so to speak. There has been great debate following the conclusion of certain literary personalities that many Malaysian emerging poets speak in fake and put on accents that is not "Malaysian". In this I am divided. I for one believe that Malaysia is such a place that it grows many weird and wonderful cultures, like a patch of hallucinogenic mushrooms after the rain, the confluence of it creating many voices, different, discordant and unique, but all Malaysian. Others question this and say that Malaysians voices should sound Malaysian. My question to them, as pointed out by one commenter on Bibliobibuli, what is the Malaysian accent? How does it sound? Should we all sing syairs and speak pantuns then? Oh well it is another issue for us to ponder. I for one believe that while syairs and pantuns are our heritage, maybe there is room for us to grow and accept other chords of Malaysian voices. A chorus of true harmony.