The poet and the stage
KARACHI: On Saturday night, the outside of The Second Floor (T2F) – an artistic haven tucked away in the corner of a dark, sleepy lane – stood in glaring contrast to a bustling city easing itself into the mid-weekend frenzy. Yet, the inside boasted a packed house as dozens of people milled about the warm community space in anticipation of the first event put forth by Spoken Stage, an organisation ‘encouraging freedom of expression by experimenting with the tradition of oral poetry and the spoken word’.
One by one, 13 brave young poets — Hamza Arif, Maazah Ali, Ilsa Rashid, Ibrahim Nadeem, Zahra Shah, Rumana Mehdi, Asad Alvi, Neha Makhdoom, Mariam Paracha, Javeria Petiwala, Akbar Shahzad, Hira Hanif, and Mariam Lutfullah — came up and shared original pieces, covering, among them, a wide array of themes, structure and performance styles. “It’s the first event, a taste of what more can be done,” said Mariam Paracha, founder of Spoken Stage. “[In this way], we hope to cross boundaries of art and incorporate new and innovative ways of storytelling to encourage writers to perform and present their original work.”
Hamza Arif started off the night, his work speaking of love and accompanied by a backdrop of haunting music, and the evening was brought to a close by Mariam Lutfullah’s vivid poem about rape and sexual violence. The poets inbetween addressed a motley of issues, including the loss of innocence, teenage angst, bullying and the search for meaning.
And yet, not all was sombre. The tone of delivery varied from piece to piece. Akbar Shahzad, playing with the iambic pentameter in his piece titled “Tabish the Robot searching for a soul”, was downright hilarious, his comic timing spot on.
Language was completely unrestrained and while most pieces were in English, Hira Hanif performed a short piece exclusively and eloquently in Urdu. Although all performers were young, most of them students or fresh graduates, the youngest of the lot was the dynamic 14-year-old Ibrahim Nadeem.
“It’s a good initiative,” said the Haq Academy student and an aspiring writer. “I wish the audience could have interacted more with the performers but, overall, it was a great night. I will certainly participate again, if another such event is put forth”
More poetic pursuits, please
Seemingly, Nadeem’s desire for similar readings was shared by not only performers but also many in the audience.
“It’s amazing that stuff like this is happening in Karachi. I feel inspired,” said editor Maryam Aryan, who has only recently moved to the country. “It’s so nice to see kids who are proud of their work. I’ve been to similar events abroad, but because everyone was so young here, everything was so raw and so real.”
A’-Levels student Javeria Kella agreed. “This really should happen more often. I think they should market these events more,” she said.
According to poet and performer Neha Makhdoom, it’s highly commendable how Spoken Stage, in collaboration with T2F and Open Letters, has managed to created such a safe space. “To have breathing room to creatively explore important issues, to have a place to speak our minds without fear or censorship, is great,” she explained. “We can do and say what we want. We are free.”