Student Work

Beirut Poetry Slam

Maysan Nasser

I lead parallel lives in Paris and Beirut: I go to school in the former and vacation in the latter. This last summer was different though. Far from Paris Lit Up’s weekly events, I found myself suffering from Thursday-Open-Mic-night-withdrawal, which was when I stumbled upon The Poetry Pot, a Beirut-based poetry collective that hosted open mic nights, and on whose RSVP list I spotted quite a few familiar faces. I went that very night, hoping to satiate my need for poetry, and I wasn’t disappointed. After the event, a woman with a warm smile told me about her efforts to organize Beirut’s first poetry slam, and encouraged me to apply. “I don’t live here, but I’ll keep it in mind,” I promised, before we went our separate ways. 

Cut to me, back in Paris. I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when the words “Beirut Poetry Slam” popped up, along with a request for applications. Why not, I thought. I quickly applied and returned my attention to the growing pile of work that was subsuming my senior year.

It was in early October that I received a response: “Congratulations! You’ve been selected!” My sense of achievement soon turned into disappointment when I saw that the competition would be during the week of midterms. I decided to send in my regretful refusal a few days later, but when I sat down to do so, I noticed a detail that I’d missed in the email: “The winner will get an opportunity to perform at The Roundhouse in London.” After sitting, slack-mouthed, through several videos of events held in this incredible live performance space, I knew that this was most definitely worth a try.

To my surprise however, after five days of kind faces and warm voices, a three-day workshop, and multiple encounters with people who quickly felt like family, I realized that the Beirut Poetry Slam was indeed worth the try, not because of the prize but rather, the experience itself. I’d arrived an hour before the first workshop and left a few hours after the final competition, feeling like I was in a daydream, and not only that: I’d won.

It was only once I’d come back to Paris that it really hit me: in June, I’ll be performing on the stage of The Roadhouse, whose videos I marveled at only weeks before. The prospect fills me with fear and excitement and seeing as how I’m not the person who I was before the Beirut Poetry Slam, I have a feeling that I won’t be the same person after The Roundhouse Poetry Slam either. All I can say is, I look forward to meeting that new self, whoever she is.