You perceive one of your unique hidden talents, something that you’re extremely passionate about and really good at from within yourself, work on it in order to improve yourself and share it with somebody else who has got the exact same talent in order to receive feedback. What next? You decide to share your mutual interests and passion with an even bigger crowd following the same process, sharing your aptitude and art seeking feedback in areas of excellence and necessary improvements. That’s how you create, lead and mould an excellent team of beginners transforming them into professionals in a respective field. Be it poetry, drama, writing, role-play or even music composing.
Team Merak sat down with one of such amazing women who had the confidence and courage to jointly find and provide a safe environment for a group of people who shared the same passion as hers asking her to throw light on the organisation she founded along with her sister and to share a few beneficial information regarding performance-poetry with us.
An Interview with Rawa Majdi: Performance Poet & Co-Founder of Kuwait Poets Society
Let’s start with a little about yourself.
My name is Rawa Majdi. I’m a Palestinian-American performance poet and community organiser, as well as a computer teacher and web developer. I am also the co-founder of Kuwait Poets Society.
Kuwait Poets Society. What made you come up with such an idea that hosts poetry nights and workshops along with open mics now and then?
Kuwait Poets Society started as a late-night idea that I came up with my sister, AJ. Back then, we both felt like we knew a lot of poets in Kuwait, but didn’t know a safe space where we could share and discuss poetry. We wanted feedback on our work too. I tweeted a call for poets, then we started a Whatsapp group followed by our very first meeting in January 2016. It has grown and expanded since then – we’ve had open mics, poetry and music events, and have started publishing a zine – but at our core, we’re the same ragtag group of writers. KPS “ended” as KPS in May 2019, but we’re rising like a phoenix as a new platform in Autumn.
Ink & Oil Zine. Could you tell us more about it?
KPS had wanted to publish a zine of our work for a long time, and the idea was finally pushed into action by the founding editor, Carina Milena Maceira. She’s doing an amazing job with it – every issue has been so special, filled with creative work by authors and artists across the MENASA. (Middle East North Africa South Asia)
What sparked your love for poetry, if I may ask?
I began writing poetry in eighth grade, when I took a Creative Writing class with an excellent teacher, Ms. Chantaj. Ms. Chantaj pushed me into expanding on my prosaic descriptions during our sessions and that eventually turned into poetry. I loved writing, and continued to do so throughout high school, but only for myself. I read a lot of poetry too. I started writing performance poetry (the complete opposite of poetry for myself) around 5-6 years later, and then performed for the first time with Word of Mouth Kuwait in 2015.
In what ways do you think, poetry differs from fiction?
There’s this idea that poetry has no rules, that there is no way that you can define poetry. I think I agree with that. Poetry is in the way that a piece of writing feels. Fiction is very different, in that it can be defined as a story with a beginning, middle, and end. However, I think a piece of fiction can also be described as poetic or prosaic.
Do you think it is important to celebrate National Poetry Month and such?
When massively-followed projects like National Poetry Month are created, those who do not know they are poets find that they want to try out poetry. Creativity is such an important part of our lives, and finding the “10 minutes a day” kinds of challenges like Inktober and NaNoWriMo can help introduce different forms of creativity to those who then feel ready to try.
What structural or stylistic techniques do you use as a poet?
I write spoken word the most, or performance poetry. Spoken word can be extremely simple, but poignant. It routinely uses cadence and flow to take the audience on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, as well as wordplay – puns, alliteration, and assonance are commonly used.
“Performance Poet” what is all the hype behind it?
A performance poet will prepare their poetry or spoken word for the stage. Rather than simply reading their poetry in front of an audience, a performance poet embodies it – I like to say that a performance poet must act, and must act specifically as though they are feeling the same feelings they did while writing the poem, even if they don’t feel those feelings anymore. That’s the only way the audience is able to feel those feelings, too.
How do your poems develop? Could you guide us through the stages of a poem.
My poetry begins as a little snippet of something – a word or a line, sparks something in me and it unravels as I write it down. Once I start writing, I don’t follow any specific rules. I’ll write the ending before the beginning, the middle before any other part, jump around in the middle of lines to make things match. I love the chaotic-ness and creativity in writing a new piece.
Who is your inspiration when it comes to poetry?
My favourite is late American poet, E.W Cummings. His work involves a lot of play with form and punctuation, and I like the way he uses those to convey confusion and rushed-ness.
Have you ever had a work of yours rejected? How did you react / cope with the rejection?
Yes, plenty of times. Part of being a published poet (or aspiring to be one) is dealing with rejection. It’s simply unavoidable. For me, the trick was to realise that it wasn’t personal. The poem was just not what the editors were looking for. And that’s okay. The poem will find a home eventually.
What is one piece of advice you would give to the young and aspiring poets out there?
Read. Reading is one of the most important things any writer, including poets, should do. If you don’t read, you have no fuel to light your fire. You’ll burn out, trying to find the words you crave to explain the spark of something you’re feeling.
“If you find yourself standing against the shoreline waiting for waves to take you under, pray for patience and low tide.” – Rawa Majdi.
At the end, it all comes down to how much time one allocates to reading. The more, the better a poet or an author one becomes.