Going from just learning about Slam Poetry in the ZAP project alone and writing my very first slam poem, to co-writing and exploring the world of Slam more in-depth artistically, that too with another person, was quite the journey. However, I feel like I learned a lot about myself, about my partner, and about the real art form of poetry throughout this process.
I was so fortunate as to have co-created with Hira for this project! We had both realized how wonderfully our thoughts intertwined and were able to reflect off of each other’s, and so we found it very easy to not only bring all our thoughts together into what is our finished poem, but to also just work together in general. Her and I work extremely well together, and I know I can speak for the both of us when I say that when our minds are put together, we are an absolute powerhouse.
Aside from the time we were given to work in class, we met up a total of six times.
It didn’t take us very long to decide on a topic for our poem, as we quickly came to the realization that we relate well to each other on a lot of personal experiences and thoughts (in fact, throughout this project, it dawned on us that we are very similar in many, many ways). So our first meeting was after school on November 25th, and consisted of us first watching a few videos of team slam poems to get a feel of a format we could work with. Then we mainly talked a lot of things out; we began the discussion of the different ideas we wanted to include in our poem. This process mainly involved saying whatever came to our minds. We learned to develop the sense of saying whatever we were thinking, no matter how dumb we thought it sounded, which allowed us to really get some awesome ideas.
“We are interdependent, we are balanced, we have an equilibrium of give and take.”
Initially, when formulating a topic/message we wanted to convey in our poem, the main issue we had was actually wording our thoughts in a way that others would understand. We realized one thing about our extremely compatible thinking was that we always knew what we were trying to say, but no one else would. Add on the fact that we were working with quite the personal topic, and we had ourselves a fairly tricky situation. We spent a full meeting on November 29th, probably around 3 or 4 hours (definitely one of our longer meetings), simply trying to narrow down all these scattered thoughts. We were able to sum up what we wanted to say in the poem in a few sentences, which not only made it easier to explain it to others, but it in fact made it easier for us to understand our own thoughts better! For half the remaining time, we basically spewed all the rest of our random ideas onto paper, and began gathering and grouping ideas, as well as ordering them, creating a kind of layout/plan for what the final thing would sound like. Since we had all our ideas laid out, we evidently were coming up with specific lines or comparisons we wanted to use in our poem somewhere. Some were half-baked, but the more we just told each other our ideas, the better they developed, as we built off each other’s ideas at a rapid rate! Many of the lines and devices used in our poem were created through mutual development, either one of us intriguing the other with a cool thought, and then our thoughts retaliating till we were trying to contain our excitement upon the final lines we were able to produce.
“Your sweater is turned inside out, and you’re holding everyone close to your chest but I’m freezing, I’m in a snow globe: my eternal, internal winter.”
This next meeting we were so excited, as we were actually able to start writing. And so we met up at my house on December 2nd, sat down with everything out… and sat, wondering how to even approach this. It’s easy to think that with two people working at once, it’s easier and more efficient to create, but this is in fact the opposite! Poetry in itself has a difficult road to follow, so goes for any art form. And doing it with another person? Sharing the craft and being able to co-create? That was something we both knew, going in, was going to be a new experience and would require a certain level of trust and confidence in on another.
Eventually, we were able to get past this initial block, writing down our first few lines. We also wanted to sharpen and finalize the structure of our poem, so our path was even clearer. Our poem had two “halves” if you will, and we knew we’d have to tackle it one half at a time. We had a sense of where we wanted things too sit in the poem, the moods we wanted to convey with what ideas, and wrote a good chunk that would later be our first draft of our first half.
“When we’re by ourselves, we’re never alone but always lonely.”
Now it was crunch time; we had to get the writing portion done, as we still had to rehearse it enough times to make sure it flowed well and was memorized. So on the next Sunday, the 6th, we decided to meet and get it done, no matter how long it took. It was way more difficult than we had originally imagined it to be, both of us trying to encourage the other to try and think of ways to word things by repeating what we were trying to get at, staring into space and sitting, silently wracking our brains for words or phrases to use. Half the time trains of thought would go loose, and we would end up sitting with clear heads, collecting back to what we were trying to accomplish. We were smart to have written out all our ideas, so we could go back and refresh our brains. It was a strenuous task at first, but again, we figured it’s better to say something weird than nothing at all. We wanted the perfect words to use, looking up synonyms, trying to get certain rhythms; that’s another thing I realized while working with Hira. As both of us are perfectionists, it’s sometimes hard to progress quickly, as we wanted everything to be just the way we wanted it, right away. We had to learn that sometimes, you just gotta put something down and get back to it later.
However, we did finally finish writing our first half completely, treating ourselves with hot chocolate, before tackling and finishing the second half as well. In the end, our poem as a whole conveyed a fairly different message than we had originally intended, but I was actually really happy with how it turned out. I think it was good we started working on it so early, so we had a lot of time to really develop it nicely and transform it into the masterpiece (if I do say so myself) we ended up with. We also had time to tinker with the structure a bit more after finishing writing, having made it so that in the first half, we we spoke individually, we used the pronoun “you” and when talking together, we used the pronoun “I”. In the second, we broke from that rule, using “I” when we spoke individually, and going with the flow, using whatever fit. This was a large, yet subtle element in our poem that I think really tied the whole thing together. At the end of this meeting, we decided on our speaking roles, and did our first, and our most horrendous runthrough.
“I’ve always been okay by myself, and I never thought I was a jigsaw that needed completion before you waltzed into my puzzle.”
From here on out, we had one class and two extra meeting times to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! I learned from my previous slam poetry project that rehearsal time is so crucial, as we were able to perfect the flow of the poem, as well as implement coordinated hand gestures, eye contact, timing, and other aspects of performance. We worked with the dynamics of the poem, how slow or fast or soft or loud we said things, and we used our voices to convey emotion in ways our words by themselves simply couldn’t. And all the while, we were using our papers less and less, many sheet-less run-throughs first going very slow, as we had to keep cheating and referring back to our words. We practiced a lot, and the more we practiced, the more confident we became in everything from gestures to emotion, to actually fully memorizing our poem. We’d be at my house, making lunch and reciting our poem out loud, developing funny jokes and unintentional raps while rehearsing, sometimes having to start over 10 times as we kept laughing as soon as we started again.
And then came presenting to the class! To be honest, we were both pretty nervous, not only because we were going first, but also because it was pretty intimidating showing something so personal to our friends. This poem is our pride and joy, and we poured not only our time and effort, but our hearts into making and perfecting it. The response was amazing, and it was probably the most emotional run-through we had ever done. We saw the kinds of emotions it evoked in our classmates, and the energy in the room after our last words was indescribable.
“I am safe, I am sound. I don’t feel like a burden anymore.”
I am so, so happy I was able to do this with Hira. I feel like we really learned how we work together through the whole experience, as well as more about the art of poetry. I also feel like we totally deepened our friendship during the course of everything, and I’m extremely happy with how much fun it was, and the result. I’m so proud of everything we’ve learned, and where our level of expectation was, and how much we exceeded that. I would do this again in a heartbeat, and I’m pretty sure we both want to continue co-creating, both in the poetry field and out. I’ve never been comfortable as to share something so personal like art with anyone else, and I’m glad I opened up to doing it this time. We did many things besides actually creating this poem that contributed to our personal bond and exposure to poetry, such as go to poetry club weekly, attend the Glen Eagle All Star Slam, going to Café Du Soleil for a poetry event; we became really involved with the poetry community during the experience. I have a strong feeling we will take things far as we continue submerging ourselves in this shared love of art.