Shruti Chauhan on Competing in the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam

Shruti Chauhan is a poet and performer from Leicester. She has won slams in Chicago and Mumbai, and recently competed in the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam, in which she placed runner-up in her heat.

There was some pressure, because there's a large sign with BBC on it. But there was a real sense of community among poets, even though it was a competition.

How long have you been performing poetry for?

I came into performance poetry two and a half years ago. Before then I was writing poetry, experimenting on the page. I discovered performance poetry at University, in a module on performance writing. I was interested in poetry because that was my background, but I was equally interested because I used to do a lot of acting when I was younger. This was a great way to combine these two things.

Was there one particular piece that inspired you?

Anis Morjgani’s poem ‘Direct Orders’ and Shane Koyczan’s ‘Move Pen Move.’ Koyzcan is my idol, in many ways. But there are still a lot of poets that inspire me. I remember reading Carol Anne Duffy back in GCSE, and it really spoke to me. She wrote poetry that was accessible, not using complex language to convey her point, but using beautiful words to evoke meaning. It was so visual and accessible, as I feel poetry should be.

Had you slammed beforehand?

I’ve done just under ten slams, in the UK, USA, and India. This is the biggest slam I’ve been in. I’ve been in the Uptown Slam in Chicago, Superhero’s Slam in Leicester, and the Poetry Rival’s Slam in the Royal Albert Hall.

How did you choose your poems?

I wanted to do poems that represent me. The first poem that I did was about Gujarati, my mother tongue. My Indian identity is very important to me, and I visit my maternal family there regularly.

Following that I did the first poem I ever wrote, called ‘Buttons’. It is about different times in my life, where I wish I could manipulate time. It is a poem very close to my heart.

My final poem was something I feel quite strongly about, and it was about mental health. I feel that there is not much support available for the carers of people who suffer from mental illnesses.

What was competing in the BBC Slam like?

It was a very warm audience. There was some pressure, because there's a large sign with BBC on it. But there was a real sense of community among poets, even though it was a competition. We all stood there together, hugged and congratulated each other. There isn’t a cut-throat feeling of competition. I like to think that artists think differently about competition.

What do you like people to take away from your poetry?

I like to be as honest as possible. I believe that all poets do. They tell stories that matter to them in the most honest and authentic way. That is all you can ever ask of a writer. Sometimes I wonder if I can talk about an experience that is not my own in the most authentic manner.

You can follow Shruti on Twitter at @ShrutiNotes.

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