Tag Archives: Feminist poetry

SXonomics in DNA AfterHours: ‘ These Bands Are Giving Out A Strong Message In Music/

I’ve been relatively quiet this month, on the blog. But the words have been hard at work. My collaboration with Dr.Ishmeet Nagpal, SXonomics, has gone on to the next level. We decided to take January to take stock, figure out where we wanted to go next. And maybe as a sign from the universe, we’ve started getting noticed and counted in some very flattering worlds.

DNA reached out to us for a chat about our work. It was so heartening to know that someone somewhere thinks we’re doing something right, and not being foolish to do what we do. They featured us in a story about performing bands using art to further social messages. Do we do that? Yes, yes, we do and not just with music. But sometimes, you need the world to tell you that it sees you, as you are. Thank you, Dhaval Roy, for seeing us for our true work.

The story is ‘These bands are giving out a strong message in music‘ and we’ve been quoted as saying,

“Spoken word feminist party SXonomics use satire, improv, poetry, music and audience-inclusive performance to project feminism as a fun and relevant way of life, while sparring with “patriarchy, toxic gender roles, relationship politics and mental monsters”, like founders Dr Ishmeet Nagpal and Ramya Pandyan tell us. “

“SXonomics, on its part, is alarmed by the things that have been passed off as culture, romance and poetry. “Problematic messages in Bollywood where a woman’s consent is not respected — like, ‘Tu haan kar ya na kar’ and many other such things are a matter of concern. Films are a huge influence on the common man’s way of thinking,” says Ramya.”

For SXonomics, the goal of their caricatures, poetry and collaborations is to prompt people to think about the current state of affairs in the country. “We want to create reference points in our listeners’ heads and make them realise when something wrong happens. Many of them have come up to us and said that our pieces like Shaadi Ka Laddu and Chaar Log (a satire on chaar log kya kahenge?/ what will people say) keep coming up in their daily lives,” says Ishmeet. Ramya adds that many of their listeners (including men and women) have told them how their performance has been an eye-opener to many aspects that existed in their lives but they were unmindful of.

Ishmeet says that when a message is propagated through music or any other art form, it is likelier to stay longer with people and make an impact.

We’ve been quoted alongside bands like Kerala’s black metal caste protest band Willuwandi, Buddhist Dalit rights activist rock band, Dhamma Wings, McLeod Ganj’s JJI Exile Brothers who sing about Tibetan freedom, Imphal Talkies‘ work on North East India’s insurgency and Aisi Taisi Democracy‘s satire. It’s a privilege, an honour even, to be counted among people who are crusading for these causes using art and performance.

Thank you every one of you who has listened to, read, clapped/snapped for, sung along with, commented, liked, talked about or even thought about what each of us has had to say. You make what we all do, possible. You make it a world that can be shaped by artists and love and passion, not just guns and politics. You allow us to believe the world can be made a better place, one song, one poem, one beat at a time. Thank you.

SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Challenge Poetry: Wrong Time & Muse

I haven’t done a lot of Challenge Poetry. I used to enjoy writing prompts. But I was learning how I wrote and I needed triggers, little guiding arrows to how I could think and prompts serve as that. But since I started doing Performance Poetry/Spoken Word, I’ve approached the form with specific ideas that I want to express. So to pick up a prompt and write to it, has felt a bit…artificial?

Still, I thought it might be interesting to give it a shot. Try everything, should be any artist’s mantra and keep trying it. I went to the Great Indian Poetry Challenge earlier in the month and came up with Wrong Time, based on the same prompt.

And yesterday, I took on Tuning Fork’s first ever Poetry Challenge and received the prompt of ‘Makes me feel alive’. I wrote and performed a piece I called Muse (or StoryMaker) and it ended up getting voted the runner-up in English performances. The winner, a seventeen year old was eons ahead in quality but I think a teenager has the purity, the intensity of emotion that the rest of us can only remember.

I’m finding it interesting that I’m turning out Performance Poetry rather than Spoken Word at these challenges. Spoken Word feels like it has used less effort in crafting the writing. But my Spoken Word pieces have taken far longer to write, rewrite, edit and perfect over time.

For instance, I performed Feminist Poetry at the concluding Open Mic segment yesterday. Many of the people there have heard it before, more than once. It got a good reaction though. Manisha said, “It’s complete now.” and I know what she means. The piece fits like a beautifully tailored garment that sits comfortably and precisely on me. This has taken time, several rewrites, rethinkings, performances and iterations (with and without music, changes of order, removing and adding key ideas). Performance Poetry on the other hand, seems to get completed in a couple of iterations and then I recant from memory, just like I would a song.

Perhaps my next foray should be Improv, a field I have absolutely zero confidence in. Keep watching and thank you for listening.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

On Motherhood, Discomfort & Poetry

I’ve had a breather from work and life’s madness and I find myself able to write again. Surely you can’t have missed the volley of blogposts all of a sudden. Poetry is flowing again too. Here’s my scathing tribute to Mother’s Day. At all three places there were cautious claps and that uneasy sense of errr…umm ness. Good, I never promised you a rose garden.

I had a chance to perform this piece at three different places but this is the best of them all. Tuning Fork is fast becoming my favorite stage.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

My Fortnight In A Playlist of Poetry

I haven’t really felt like writing much of late. I also haven’t felt like talking or socialising as much. It has been a month of enjoying the cliched ‘my own company’. And no, I don’t mean solo dates. I mean, there is so much going on even when I’m only talking to myself.

Anyway, I haven’t exactly been antisocial. There has been work. And in addition, I’ve been going to a lot of poetry events. That doesn’t feel as much like socialising, especially if it’s newer venues and events. I’ve been seeking the last actively for awhile and I found two. They’re great for now because they are fresh enough to be open to all forms of poetry and attract completely fresh slate minds. So yes, there’s cliches, there’s teenage angst and canned feminism and stale cynicism. But it comes from unfamiliar faces, in newer stories. And best of all, the career poets haven’t showed up as yet. These are the people who are approach poetry, performance and events the same way mid-level managers approach corporate events armed with visiting cards and antacids.

I realise how bitchy that sounds considering a fair lot of them are known to me. I hesitate to call most of them friends because I learnt more than a year later that they’re no different from the b-school alumni meet crowd. There used to be a certain quality to the poetry with performers like this but now it’s all so formulaic and worst of all, drowned in the politics of who’s getting showcased, who’s performing on which show, who got paid and how much. And with all that comes the condescension, the backbiting, the sniping (in whispers and in poetry). Writers are truly appalling people. Well, people are appalling people.

Anyway, I discovered entirely by mistake two new platforms. The first was Art Refurbish’s poetry slam + Open Mic at Khar Social. The crowd was entirely unfamiliar. I made it in late after having wrapped up a three hour webinar and a trek through the heat. The freshness of the performances and the audience was invigorating. I was one of the last performers and I did ‘Paper Plane‘ but I felt like I was experiencing it for the first time. Truly, this is a wonderful medium that allows your old stories to be reborn with every telling.

The Hive feels like homebase now but the crowd was almost all new and there was a new host too. For all intents and purposes, that makes it a new event. I brought out ‘Paper Dolls‘ from my TARQ event earlier this year.

Tuning Fork turned up two events within the space of a week. The first time, I was wearing a saree just because I was in a mood to. And I went in with ‘Feminist Poetry‘ well, because I thought it would be funny to do that particular piece when the audience probably expected more ‘respectable, traditional poetry from the woman in the saree’. An old poet-friend had referenced angry feminists in his heartbreak poetry earlier. I called him out mid-performance and the audience laughed, him along with them all. 🙂

The next week, I was determined to not continue with the feminism theme. I had attended the Caferati Open Mic at Prithvi earlier in the evening after all. Karthik showed up as a surprise and we performed ‘Lullaby‘ there.

But at Tuning Fork later in the night, one young man started his piece addressing the (exaggerated airquotes) FEMININAZIS in the audience. Several people turned around and looked right at me and when it was my turn, they hooted. So I changed my plan and went in with ‘SuperWoman‘.

And then, when I finished, I got off the stage, changed my mind and returned to request another performance. I concluded with ‘Paper Plane‘, my third rendition in two weeks (I also addressed Manisha’s Creative Writing class and concluded my talk with a rendition, not recorded).

Later that night, the young man came up to me and said “Well played.” I grinned back at him. This is so cool. Banter and conversations in poetry. Me for the world, only in poetry. I’ll enjoy it while I can.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

“My Feminism Is Someone You Haven’t Met Before” – Feature At TPC #UndoingGender

The Poetry Club, Airplane Poetry Movement and The Hive came together to pull off an event on #UndoingGender. They had asked for submissions and this piece was one that they picked for a feature performance. I performed it last evening with Karthik Rao on the guitar. I’ll post a video shot from a better angle shortly.

My Feminism Is Someone You Haven’t Met Before

When I tell people
“Don’t call me chick”,
they say,
“You’re not, like, one of those feminist types, are you?”
No. I’m not.
I’m not any kind of feminist that you’ve ever met
And chick? That’s a yellow baby bird
I’m not yellow
I’m the colour of Fair & Lovely ads
Before the girl gets the boy, the job, the life
My Feminism knows appearance matters
But that’s because she looks fabulous in every colour
My Feminism is a flirt
She doesn’t have ‘angry tearful breasts’
But a pair that go in opposite directions
So she uses a bra to hold them together
and calls them ‘Bait’
My Feminism says, “Hello, boys”
My Feminism loves men
Of course, they are often useless
But that’s not their fault – they think with the wrong head
My Feminism has boyfriends and best friends
and a Best Man at her wedding
She changes her mind
No you stupid boy, it’s not always PMS
I would die if bled every time I felt something
Yes, bleeding has something to do with periods
And no, women aren’t really scared of blood
We just pretend so we can laugh behind your back
My Feminism will not make you feel like a man
ßIf your body plumbing is my responsibility
I’m going to flush it down the drain
But my Feminism is not hard
She cries when rape happens
She aches in a world that values control over consent
Gender, sexuality, relationship status regardless
My Feminism weeps the unshed tears of all the men she has known
She bleeds when she sees broken children
Underage is a sin, whether it owns a penis or a vagina
My Feminism loves children
It’s an affection that wears innocence and magic
Not a maternity gown
My Feminism owns her body and her choices
My Feminism won’t condemn you for sexualising women
This body was designed for sex
Good sex. Lots of sex.
And when you’re done gaping over that
She’ll explain the difference between ’sexual being’ and ’sex object’
So don’t chick me, you
She wears red lipstick and combat boots
Kanjeevaram sarees, backless cholis
Butterfly clips and leather jackets
She’s siren, babydoll, bitch, child-woman, earth mother
She knows even labels come off
Even ink washes off
My Feminism doesn’t believe in
Slut shaming
Fat shaming
Any kind of shaming
She’s shameless
Blameless
But not nameless
She believes with real responsibility, comes real power
So if you’re getting friendly with a lot of crotches,
Girl, you better learn where to hit if the shit hits the fan
And stop moping about your weight and calling it cute things like plus size
And “Real women have curves”
Get real
My Feminism gets a workout because
She knows adrenalin and endorphins make up for absent male attention

My Feminism reads
Shakespeare, Sophie Kinsella, Terry Prachett, Milan Kundera
and Nancy Friday
She gets together with Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen
to laugh, laugh, laugh at Bella and her stupid vampire
Hell, my Feminism plays poker with Frankenstein
Like every other monster, he’s just a little boy who was created by a woman

My Feminism is a cat
Tigress
Pussycat
Alley cat
Cougar
Well, cats have nine lives
And guess how often my pretty, funny feminism lands on its feet?
Always. Miaow.

I am an individual
And my Feminism is someone you haven’t met before.

A Playlist Of My Spoken Word Performances As A Feature At The Hive

A new milestone. The Hive asked me to be one of their feature poets at their Open Mic yesterday. I find this immensely gratifying since I only really started thinking about performance poetry/spoken word seriously in January this year.

I knew I would have enough material to cover the 10 minute slot they allocated to me. But I wanted to make sure there was enough variety to keep the listeners entertained and engaged. I’ve been exploring the medium and I’ve tried to not get too repetitive. Also, unlike with writing, I haven’t had or haven’t given myself the luxury of multiple versions of the same trick.

Here are my performances. I started (without preamble, as I’ve been training myself to do) with SUPERWOMAN, which is a ten year work-in-progress, starting with this blogpost.

From there, I moved to a brand new piece that I’ve been working on for a couple of months now. Spoken word is a mutable art form and how I feel about this idea has changed considerably in these months. I initially conceptualised it as a tale of regret, of a vital choice which I made every day and the rue I felt over not once trying the other side. Over time, it has moved from being a metaphor of my life to a picture of the city that defines me. I call this one FLAMINGOS.

And finally, I moved to the one classically ‘poetry/literary’ piece I wrote and performed a couple of months ago. Adi says it doesn’t sit as naturally with my style as others. But I wanted to try it anyway to see what I could do with it. I call it LOVE STORY SEASON 2 (or, in the page poetry version ‘Patchwork Relationship’).

The video moves on to my last piece as well. That’s the one I’m coming to think of as my signature piece. It was my first ever performance piece and its philosophy also gave me my newest tattoo. I give you again, PAPER PLANE.