On January 31st this year, I performed my first poem in front of an audience at a club in Singapore. The original plan was to be an audience and watch others perform their words. However, two hours prior to leaving, I decided to register for an open mic slot.
Why? Because I thought, what’s the worse that can happen. I’ll bomb in front of a foreign crowd.
The ease of being an unknown allowed me to quickly finish my day’s chores, print out a poem that I had written months ago, wear a shade of red lipstick, tie my hair and sprint onto the bus.
On the way to the club, all I thought was, this would be fun. I had zero anxiety. An unfamiliar sense of comforting excitement and the audacity of just being in the moment.
As I stood in line to get a slot for the open mic, I felt okay in making small talk to strangers. Was it their first time? Were they participating in the slam? What did they do? We all felt familiar in feeling giddy to share our verses.
The open mic started and with it the atmosphere of the room began altering. People in office attire, casuals, punk, and ethnic, all seemed tuned into the words that performers began sharing.
But more than that, the audience tuned into their emotions that poets were tapping into.
There was love and heartbreak in equal measure. There was conflict and harmony. There was failure and success. There was guilt and pleasure.
As each poet performed, the crowd turned closer in. Words became ice breakers for conversations, emotions built bridges to open up, and performances turned mediums to express familiarity in a room full of strangers.
On my turn, I thanked the crowd, and asked the pianist to play a simple melody. As his fingers pressed the keys, my words found a tune to reach out towards the audience. I recited the story of a young girl finding new homes in stranger shores, just like I felt in that moment.
I looked into the eyes of my audience. Some felt familiar, others felt inquisitive. But each one was perceiving what my words meant to them.
And it was that moment that I realised, the reason why we write poetry. To express ourselves through our feelings, using words as a medium, and find those feelings home in new hearts.
Trust that each one of you who reads or hears our words, will make a small room in your conscious for them. That our words will find meaning as they are perceived by attentive minds. Interpreted differently maybe, but accepted nonetheless, even judged, but heard.
Writing poetry is a solitary benevolence, but performing it is a social one.
I realised that as I witnessed people get immersed in words and go back to the performers to thank and appreciate them. To ask them what their poems implied and if they got it right. To account their truths.
For me, using spoken word as a channel for creative expression, has been a surreal and emancipating experience.
To grieve and rejoice with an audience that is listening and sharing your experience, is by far the most beautiful form of catharsis.