“Poetry is pretty much everyone’s game,” says Chari. Like Deepa Bohora, he too found a community in the Word Warriors, a spoken word poetry group. And while Gurung calls writing a lonely task, Slam poets like Bohora and Chari have formed their own circles where poets come together to write and perform.
Chari and his friends Prakash Zimba, Rupesh Bhattarai and Shuvangi Khadka perform together under the name, Kavindrapur, in memory of the forgotten poets that frequented a sattal rest house next to Kastamandap, during the reign of Pratap Malla.
The king was the patron of the poets. And there in a rest house in the heart of old Kathmandu, the streets would reverberate with verses as poets wove a mesh with their words. It is this memory that has been created into a legacy by the young poets, even as they struggle with other challenges of being poet.
“Poet, but paid” is painted in white on the black tee shirt Chari wears. “We get invited to events, often to perform or to judge, but no one cares to pay for our time or expression. Poetry is not respected,” Chari expresses his frustration.
And his sentiment is seconded by Gurung: “Nepali society respects writers and poets but there is no support system to serve that vocation. There is no reward monetarily and often, poets pay for their own books to be published.”
Gurung’s anthology of poetry, Dandelion Snow was published in 2020, and most of the people who bought his books have been friends. Poetry books are published with the expectancy of a prolonged shelf-life, he says.
And yet that does not deter the courage of Bohora, who hopes someday to pull together a book of her poems. “That’s the dream, I’ve been carrying. Someday, I’d like to do a book of my own,” she says. “My words have done what my father’s sweat hasn’t.”
When the likes of Rupi Kaur and Nayyira Waheed stormed Instagram’s little boxes with their anecdotes, poetry appeared to have found a new platform for revival. While it has also given birth to debates about what really is poetry, then, if it can be dashed off in incomplete sentences and expressions.
“At least it’s helped other poets see, that it is possible to sell,” says Gurung.
In Kathmandu, a surge in performance poetry was seen in the last decade with Word Warriors performing at different events, raising pertinent personal and political questions, while also creating space for young writers to form their own groups.
But poetry has also been used to challenge. In the recent anti-government protests, the crowd cheered as Sapna Sanjeevani recited: Ab hum Sita Nai Banbo, refusing to the submission that Sita had to adhere to. And it is a sentiment that resonates with many women writers of the decade.
My country cries over
the birth lore of gods,
not the bodies of desecrated dead girls;
My country says I am a Goddess.
Neha Rayamajhi’s a poem published in LaLit magazine is steeped in sadness and anger. There is sarcasm. There is mostly protest in her words:
My country asks me
for my father’s name.
Men who are dead,
or have become ghosts
they own me more than the women who birth me:
My country asks me to love this motherland.