If you’re into performing poetry or just watching other people take the podium to do so, you need to know about Dubai Poetry Slam.
The monthly event, co-founded by spoken-word poet Omran Al-Mohammad, sees poets from across the UAE recite their own work, battling out to be crowned winner. It started back in 2015 with Al-Mohammad and a group of his friends. “We just share a passion for music, art, events and poetry,” he says. “But we felt like something was lacking in the scene. The whole idea was to provide a platform for people to perform.”
The first Dubai Poetry Slam was held in February 2015, and around 50 people, turned up to take part. “We get a lot of new people, and that’s a surprise, Al-Mohammad says. “The first show we did, we had 20 performers and we knew none of them. It proved that there are people out there who want to showcase their talent.” The Slam occasionally gets visitors from further afield than the UAE. “We’ve had tourists who have somehow heard of us send us Facebook messages to ask when the next show is.”
Being a competition, Dubai Poetry Slam is different to other events in the UAE – and there are a few. “We pick random judges from the audience and give them whiteboards and markers to rate the performers,” explains Al-Mohammad. “Each performer has three minutes to recite, and at the end, we sum up the results and pick those with the highest scores to be first second and third.”
Just don’t turn up expecting to win a huge cash prize. Since Dubai Poetry Slam is non-sponsored and non-profit, the winners get unusual gifts. Al-Mohammad says that at one, “the winner got a watermelon, which we wrapped up and gave to her”.
As well as giving amateur poets a stage, each event sees a featured artist recite their work and take part in a Q&A with the audience. “We’ve featured writers, poets, comedians, musicians and rappers,” says Al-Mohammad, adding that he has also had writers who were travelling through Dubai ask for a chance to be featured.
Dubai Poetry Slam is free to attend if you’re willing to get up and compete, but if you’re not, there’s a small charge of just Dhs20, which helps the organisers with the funds needed to rent out a space and provide cookies for the audience.
Everyone is welcome at the event, with the age of performers ranging from 13 to 50. And if it’s your first time up on stage, you won’t be alone. “At every event, 80 percent of those taking part are new to performing,” Al-Mohammad says. “They write poetry but have never actually recited it to an audience. Many of them mention that in their poems, too, and that’s what we wanted. We have a microphone for you.”
Keep an eye on the Facebook page for upcoming events, www.facebook.com/dubaipoetryslam.