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Jayati Godhawat

JWB Blogger

National Youth Poetry Slam Winner, Diksha Bijlani Creates Poetic Chaos In Our Hearts

  • JWB Post
  •  November 19, 2016

Poetry is something which takes my soul home, the warmest place on earth!

When I came across the spoken word poem, ‘Why I say You’ll Never Understand me,’ by , I could relate to every word of it.

From further investigation (makes me sound like CID. LOL!), I found out that Diksha is a co-founder of the poetry group , and is pursuing Applied Psychology from University of Delhi.

The 20-year-old has also been a speaker at TEDxAIIMS where she discussed the topic: Spoken word as a tool for social change, and also performed two poems.

This September, she won the National Youth Poetry Slam and will go on to represent India in Chicago for the International Slam competition with her three-member team from Gargi College.

Here’s the sneak-peek into our conversation with the poet:

JWB:  Introduce one side of your personality that no one ever understood. 

Diksha: The very fact that I am too complex to form judgments about, the ending lines in ‘‘ go: ‘i am not so easily defined,

‘I am not so easily defined; I have layers
and you could try to get inside this labyrinth
trying to find quantitative psychology in everyone
but, you are never going to be able to define me
without using oxymorons for adjectives and but’s for conjunctions,
I bleed colors’.

I surprise my own self with the range of emotions and skills I can deal with, every day. And knowing myself so closely has made me realize one thing that I am before anything else. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any basic principles or personality types. However, the spectrum of definitions that we use to describe or segregate each other every day generally fails to apply to me or at least becomes broad enough to entertain contradictions.

JWB: According to you what’s the right way to find love?

Diksha: To stop seeking it, and spending our energy in nourishing our own selves, so we become whole as a person, every passing day. That is what my poem ‘‘ is also essentially about. It isn’t actually about Tinder. It uses the dating application as a metaphor to point out that the love patterns we see now are so flimsy because they are too invested in finding love than making oneself lovable. So often that makes you fall in love not with the person but with the idea of being in love.

A line in the poem says: ‘You were so busy on your quest for love that you forgot to leave the breadcrumbs behind as you go you’re gonna reach an impasse someday, and you cannot find your way back now.’

Another one goes: ‘You went out of your house looking for the cupid on a stormy night, so when it came to find you, you were not there anymore.’

JWB: How are you preparing for the International Slam competition? Have you decided the theme of the poem?

Diksha: I shall be going for CUPSI Chicago in April, with my three member team from Gargi College who I won the slam with. We still have a couple of months to prepare, although we keep collecting themes out of everyday events and conversations. We are looking out to the issues that are Indian, Universal, or the issues which are Indian but also find solidarity in an international community.

JWB: Who is the first one to hear your poems?

Diksha: Most of the times, I open with a new poem directly at an event. So there is no previous seeking of opinion or soliciting of reaction. The first reaction from an unbiased, undisturbed audience is what I take for feedback.

Of course, I keep observing audience response and taking mental feedback throughout the course of performing the same poem at different places. But I generally perform a new poem for the first time to the live audience because my way of taking feedback is observing the places the listener snaps with the poem. Another reason I do it is because a slam poetry setting solicits a very different reaction from the same audience than an interpersonal setting may provoke.

JWB: Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was the inspiration behind it? 

Diksha: ‘When I Say You Will Never Understand Me’ was the first poem I wrote. I have been into slam poetry only since September 2015  and didn’t write poems before that as such except for a few creative writing events). is actually one of my first performances of the poem!

JWB: Do you also write Hindi poems? 

Diksha: Ah!  As much as I wish I did, I am yet to try my hand at Hindi poetry.

We are waiting!

JWB: Many customs and stereotypes bind women in India. Advise, what according to you, women should say, “to hell with.”

Diksha: I believe they should say ‘to hell with’ to external restrictions on their personal freedom. It includes restrictions of parents on taking that summer trip with your best friend, or societal restrictions of “curfew” times, or dress codes.  

So many stereotypes binding women are conditioned into us internally, like the affinity to clean shaved skin or feminity, so fighting them becomes secondary to us when we have external factors restricting us too. 

Every girl deserves to realize and harness the kind of freedom that comes with being able to wear whatever they wish to and to go wherever they wish to at ease. And this freedom is not easily given to us, we have to take it by the leash. No girl should be afraid to do that.

The individual poem I performed at the National Youth Poetry Slam was called ‘In Which I Resurrect Wonder Woman.’ It was about how freedom to wear whatever we wish to without being body shamed is a true women empowerment. Here are some lines from the poem to elucidate my point: 

‘Who is going to fight our battles
if all we fight is loose sleeves that refuse to surrender?’

‘each time I walk into the store
and pick out the first dress
I am not thinking ‘sensualise,’
I am thinking ‘world domination.’
I am thinking ‘Lady Gaga flawless.’
I am thinking maybe our short dresses are our capes
making us realize that superheroes have them for a reason!
Let every Superman know
That Wonder Woman will not hide anymore.’


JWB: How do you train yourself for the recital? Any tips for the beginners?

Diksha: It forms into me as I write the poem. I keep reciting parts of it to myself even while writing it, and it is almost always very fair in my head what kind of actions would be required with what kind of line. Recitals are very custom and individually based on the kind of poem, as I have seen great performances that hardly used gesticulation.

So my first tip to beginners would be: When you are writing something, forget about the recital for a minute and focus only on the words. Are they strong enough even without the recital? Or do they limp without a good recital? Because no matter how creative we get with gesticulation, the best poems  I heard have had powerful words that stay with you. Nothing makes up for that!

But to corroborate your words with the recital, it is always a good idea to represent lines with minimal actions. Open your arms as much and as flexibly as you can, and make sure your expression vibes with the mood of your poem.

Also, take enough pauses for the audience to be able to register the important parts but not so many or such long ones that it feels like you are waiting for their response.

And most of all, when you are reciting, stay in the character of the poem throughout the performance. Live the performance even if the audience is not lively. That is when you truly respect your piece. It is extremely important to respect your piece enough to perform it with as much feeling every time.

Noted! Have you, fellas?

JWB: How do your parents react to your poetry?

Diksha: Haha! My parents have never seen me perform. They don’t particularly understand the artform either. Since I stay away from home in Allahabad, they cannot attend my performances and not both of them are English-spoken. They do figure as a muse in my poems, though, because it is through my relationship with them and my childhood that I derive a lot of themes.

JWB: What’s the ideal time and environment for the muse to visit you?

Diksha: None at all! I am an observant person, and very often, I think about little experiences in a macroscopic way. So, a lot of things that make me feel very strongly become my poems. However, some of my poems aren’t written with muse at all. I just sit alone and think about all the things I would want to perform about, or things in my life that others can derive lessons from, or things I want to change socially. That is how Tinderella was written, that is how Wonder Woman was written, too.

JWB: Why did you choose spoken word genre to express your feelings?

Diksha: I didn’t choose it, it just happened. I had no idea the art form existed, till about two years back. 

I happened to attend an event in 2014 and was moved by the artform. However, I was out of touch with such events for a year, and then I attended another event in 2015. This is when I finally started feeling that I wanted to do it too. 

I felt there are so many things I would want to say and change through the power of that stage and mic. When I read some of my prose, I realized it was very poetic, and could make a great spoken word piece too. That is how my first poem was born, from an 8 line prose to a long poem. So, it was more of a ‘tubelight moment’, for talent.

Now that I think back, my writing style was always more suited to a slam poetic syntax than written word, and so was my oratory. Which is why I believe this artform happened to me. And, I choose it every single day since then because of the power it gives me to influence or touch someone through words. 

I have always strongly believed that the first step to ending oppression is to make your oppressors listen to you – that is, to find a voice – and that is what spoken word helps us to do. It devises creative ways and makes the oppressors listen to us. The kind of empowerment that comes with that is what starves any kind of oppression, be it societal or personal. The beauty of this art form is that it touches people, and perhaps changes them too.

JWB: If you had to write a poem on your favorite food, what would it be like? Send a teaser maybe?

Diksha: I would definitely write it on Pizza! It would go something like:

‘List of things I am open to sharing:
beds, and
body fluids

List of things I am not open to sharing:

see the crust, is so thin sometimes
that I would have to eat an entire tortilla
before I can make up for the lost calories

and don’t even get me started on toppings

Sometimes that breaks my heart so much that I have to order another pizza to make up for the heartbreak I had while eating my first pizza…. to make up for the heartbreak i had …..’

Ummmmm…. sorry, don’t remember it anymore. Must’ve be the pizza. Getting high on Alcohol is so overrated!

I so agree!  *feeling hungry – ordering a pizza*

JWB: If you had to assign a color to your poems, what would it be?

Diksha: Gray! They are always a balance of pointing out the black problem and suggesting a white solution, or at least trying to provoke one.

JWB: Favorite Poet?

Diksha: Not one, but I really enjoy Olivia Gatwood, Brenna Twohy, and Sabrina Benaim as spoken word poets, and Warsan Shire and Rudy Francisco as written poets.

JWB: Given a chance, to which artist would you give your poems to sing?

Diksha: Alessia Cara

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