Meeting Sweden's finest poets. Or how they made me feel like my poems are absolute shit.

By: Kai Teo

Photos: César Ortiz

Event: Poetry Slam Final: Malmös Åtta Bästa Poeter 2013 – Moriska Paviljongen
Date: Wednesday, 10 April ‘13
Guest poet: Tobias Erehed – 2011 Swedish Champion, 2012 Scandinavian Champion
Slammers: Bob Katt, Nils Holmström, Felicia My Piltz, Karin Palmqvist, Maria Maunsbach, Conrad Luckett, Jacob Hallgren, Gunnar B Hansen
Our rating: 4.5/5 (It’ll be 5 if I understood more Swedish)

I love writing poems. And I always thought that I was pretty good at that. Until now.

Buddha Mag was invited to the ultimate clash of the titans, where 8 of Sweden’s best poetry slammers come together head-to-head to destroy the shit out of one another through clever diction, iambic pentameters, metaphors, similes, rhymes, assonance, alliteration and (insert any poetry-related technical term).

“Wait, you don’t even know Swedish and you’re reviewing this event?”

Yes. Because poetry is, essentially, music. As much as it relies heavily on the careful choice of words, it’s not all about that. Slamming is a performance, a standup, a concert, it’s someone’s 15 minutes of fame. And that is something to be felt, appreciated and experienced.

I did, however, pick up a few words here and there: “… kärlek…” AH! YES! This poem is about love!

Of course that didn’t do any justice. But hey, I tried. Cesar and I were probably the most clueless people amongst the audience. When everyone laughed, we took the cue promptly and laughed along, while giving the knowing smile and appreciative nod. Occasionally we also muttered the impressed “Mmm…”. SFI has failed us. Utterly. Our falafel-ordering phrase “Ingen lök, tack.” didn’t come in handy here.

But you see, we felt stuff. It’s called energy. Angst. Contempt for the mundane. Joy. Humour. Sarcasm. Pain. This shit transcends language. And we’re living proof.

As we sat in the front row listening intently, I couldn’t help but feel that poets are definitely the most cynical people on this planet. They have this unnerving characteristic of turning everyday normal observations into shrewd, twisted thoughts. A simple one-night stand can transform into a full-blown internal debate about sexism and equality. Someone’s facebook post can be construed to become an intense discussion about the society and its perception of beauty.

Poets love making life difficult for themselves.

No one wrote about rainbows, smelling flowers, sunshine and happy birds. No one gives a shit if you like unicorns. Instead, what was applauded and embraced were harsh realities of lost love, inequality, self-doubt and hardcore “I wanna stab someone” sentiments. The themes that evening were powerful, empowering and definitely very moving.

In the midst of feeling nauseous due to a combination of holding back my pee and a thirst for beer, it suddenly dawned on me that I was looking at the giants of Sweden’s poetry universe. Tobias, the guest poet, was the Jimmy Hendrix of the evening. And the slammers were all superstars.

When thrown on stage, some of them shone brighter than the spotlights, some quivered from nervousness, some stammered, some mumbled. But all of them were geniuses in their own right. And everyone knew that.

The night ended with the announcement of 2013’s champion, Maria Maunsbach. Her ROFL humour, her infectious zest, and the outright caustic nature of her poetry, won the crowd and won the crown. Her inspiration? “It just came out.” Yea, the world’s unfair this way. Talent just oozes from her very pores when mere mortals like us spend days trying to find a word that rhymes with “orange”.

Thanks to the mighty poets of the evening. You’ve just banished my so-called poetry skills to the stinking sewers of the literary world. I am truly humbled.