This spoken word poetry performance was so enchanting and captivating, that by the end of it you would have no idea where the hour had passed.
Kirsten Luckins takes the title for her spoken word poetry performance from a Zen fable that may (or may not) be about finding one’s authentic self. The hour temporarily transports the audience to the mysterious land of India, effortlessly intertwining legend and myth with reality, and making something that happened far away, decades ago, surprisingly relevant. Luckins addresses spiritual issues and the effect of commercial tourism on the original, innocent, bright and colourful culture of India, in a poetry which is cleverly combined with percussion and guitar chords that echo the sounds of the Eastern country. A rucksack containing tarot cards, clothes, a bowl, an apple and different coloured pashminas are excellent visual aids for the audience and make the transition from poem to poem.
Her words create a melody as she speaks them to a beat, reading back her poetry from the paper, and I realise I will not be able to forget the way it was said so poignantly during the performance. This is especially true for the poem ‘Monsoon’ whose repetitions and onomatopoeic words ring out, like rain tapping and then striking the rooftops.
The poems tell the story of Luckins’ arrival in Goa and then her time in mainland India, though she begins and ends on two presumably Hindu, fable-like stories. Like many tourists, Luckins went to India with friends to ‘find herself’ and celebrate the festival of the new moon. However, her and her friends arrive at the wrong time, and ‘Monsoon’ expresses this different season of India that exists when the tourists have already left. Other poems such as, ‘Eight Finger Eddy and the Freak Family Goa’, ‘All The Pretty, Pretty Things’ and ‘The Landlords and the Beggars’ portray a commercialisation of India and the disappearance of its innocence into merchandise.
Her poems express the beauty of India, one of her reasons for travelling there was the country’s beauty, however the poems also express disenchantment with the idea of travelling to an exotic country, disillusionment with the hippie lifestyle, the exploitation of other cultures in which tourists do not ‘tessellate’ but have ‘all the angles’, and the use of drugs. Most of the poems are separate units of stories, describing how she made and lost friends, arrived and departed cities and beaches, and experienced the bustling country. But these stories naturally flow into one another and interlink.
Her own spiritual travels are starkly contrasted with the pilgrimage of the Saddhu made on his hands and needs, the washing of bodies in the Ganges, and the creation of Hindu gods and goddesses, which makes tourists’ aspirations to find themselves in India seem very superficial. Salman Rushdie in his essay Imaginary Homelands describes this idea well: “the past is country from which we have all emigrated.” Indeed, Luckins’ poems demonstrates that she had learnt a lot from her travels in India, and emigrates from the past herself, however they also illustrate that there is still a lot more to learn and to understand, and the question of whether she succeeded in ‘finding herself’ still remains unanswered at the end.
The performance is a bittersweet window into this mysterious Eastern world. On the one hand, Luckins’ touristic Western lens can enforce exoticism, however her attention to detail, and well balanced descriptions allow for criticism of monolithic, exoticised views of India. The poems are also hard hitting in places; she describes the harsh day to day life of women in the rice fields and tells the story of a young teenage girl who was raped. The profits from the selling of her poetry collection are given to Water Aid, as many girls are raped because they have no access to toilets and are forced to use alley ways instead. Even waiting until night-time so as not to expose themselves leaves them very vulnerable and many are preyed upon.
This was a brilliant performance that will take you through a wide range of emotions. There is pain, sadness and confusion, but also laughter and excitement in Luckins’ tale, culminating into a plea for an extremely worthwhile cause.