The Airplane Poetry Movement: Building A Platform For Spoken Word Poets In India

Nikhita Sanotra
New Update
Nandini Verma - spoken word poet in India

Slam poetry has been gaining popularity on social media over the last few years. There are a lot of men and women who write their own poems and then go on stage and perform them. This is called slam or spoken word poetry. These performances are then recorded and posted on social media. You may have seen a lot of these on Facebook or Instagram. Lately, there have been many such events in India too, where you can go and participate and read your poetry aloud.


Started in 2013, with the aim to popularise spoken word poetry in India, The Airplane Poetry Movement was one of the first of its kind when it came to spoken word poetry. We spoke with Nandini Varma, the co-founder to know more about the initiative,

"We started with the aim of building a working infrastructure for spoken word poets in India - by that I mean, giving the best platforms to people for performing their poems, as well as giving the best education in spoken word poetry."

When Nandini and Shantanu (her co-founder) started in 2013, slam was still a new concept. Nandini elaborates, “At that time slams were still a very new format. We faced some challenges, mostly with respect to booking venues, getting participation for the slams, and really taking the art form to as many people as possible. However, things have grown immensely since then.”

Nandini Verma, co-founder of the Airline Poetry Movement Nandini Verma, co-founder of the Airplane Poetry Movement does slam poetry on stage

Spoken word poetry is now popular, thanks to YouTube. It is a great way to express your feelings and immerse yourself in written art. Slam poetry usually deals with difficult topics too, which makes its purpose far more interesting. Slam poetry also aims to bring about social change through performances. Some of the performances are so honest and moving, that it is difficult not to listen to the message in the poem. Over the last three years, the Airplane Poetry Movement has been conducting open mic nights every month and have held more than 70 workshops in schools and colleges in India.

Spoken word poetry is now popular, thanks to YouTube. It is a great way to express your feelings and immerse yourself in written art.


When we asked Nandini about her most memorable experience while working with the movement, she told us about one week where she was conducting a workshop at SSLA (Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts). She said, “This was the first time, we really pushed ourselves and our boundaries as educators - within those 6 days we learnt so much from the students who came every single day regardless of the hectic college schedule. It ended with the most magical performance given by the students who participated, each one holding their own style on stage, and being so absolutely brave and honest on stage. I could never be grateful enough for every single minute of that week.”

Nandini is a poet herself (one of the reasons she started the movement) and she says that one of the poems that inspired her is called Leisure by William Henry Davies. She borrowed the title of one of her very first poems from Leisure. It is called ‘Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass/A letter to my younger self’.

Here’s a glimpse into the creative world of spoken word poetry:

“Where Squirrels Hide Their Nuts In Grass*”/A Letter To My Younger Self.

You’re a pocket in a matchbox

That extinguishes the fire it lit,

The houses it burnt,

The patches it left


You are water that is not tame

And breathing is the sound, sometimes,

Of your mother crying



There is no grass taller than

The frown on your face,

And you left your watering can behind

Let the grass blades kiss your knees,

For a change,

Let the squirrels hide their nuts in it,

A feather will fall from a nest,

A wing will open at the foot of a shivering tree.

We will both learn slowly,

To resurrect.

- Nandini Verma

Pic credits: Nandini Verma

Also read: “Illustrating Gave Me What had been Missing in my Work – a Voice” : Neethi

Read more stories by Nikhita Sanotra

poet airplane poetry movement nandini varma performance poems Poetry poets in india Slam poetry Spoken Word Performances Spoken Word Poetry