Slammin’ Poems, Naturally
By Therese M. Whelan
They told me it doesn't take much to let yourself be free
They can hold you down and chain you in but can't stop what you see
They can enter the den of the youthful sinners in the dark, damp alley
But they cannot stop your mind from the creation of destiny
For Priya Joshi, the author of the stanza above, freedom comes in the form of poetry. Joshi, 19, a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College, grew up in the small town of Chester, New Jersey. As a child she spent 10 years practicing gymnastics and advancing as far as state competitions before stopping at age 15 because she felt she wasn’t going anywhere with it.
Like any interesting person, Joshi says she hated high school. But if she could go back and give advice to a younger version of her self she would tell 13 year-old Priya not to “worry so much about school.” In her junior year of high school, Joshi found something she could focus her energy and creativity on.
Though she had always liked to write, Joshi became inspired to write slam poetry after seeing the HBO show Def Poetry. After that she says she began to write poetry in that style. Slam poetry is “poetry with rhythm.” In poetry slams, poets compete in front of an audience and read their poems in a manner similar to rapping.
When describing her writing style Joshi says, “ I write as much as I can... I don’t ever just sit down and say ‘ok, now I’m going to write.’ It really just sort of happens, but I’d say it usually happens twice a month. If I ever have to force a poem out of me, then I stop writing until it just comes naturally.”
Joshi first tried her hand at performing while still living in New Jersey. Now, she lives in Astoria, Queens which she loves because of the residential feel and the fact that her brother, who she calls ‘her best friend,” lives within walking distance. In Manhattan, the poetry scene is mostly downtown, in the West Village. Joshi has who enjoys the excitement of performing, has competed in a few places, and hopes to continue.
Priya, whose name means “love,” enjoys being around her friends and her 17year-old cat Frisky. Her favorite television shows are The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Other favorites include the band Bright Eyes, Red Wine and Lamb Saag. Most of the time Joshi can be found wearing jeans, a t-shirt and boots. She has already traveled to some far off places such as Malaysia and hopes to visit Spain, France and Mississippi. When asked what she would do with a million dollars a year, Joshi says she would “Pay back my parents for everything,” donate some and keep just enough to live on.
“I change my mind like my underwear,” says Joshi jokingly when asked where she would like to be 10 years from now. She does know that she would like to still be writing. As an English major with an emphasis on creative writing, Joshi is well on her way to achieving that goal. She already posts some of her poems on MySpace for her friends to read. The poems are honest and raw and surpass most college student’s poems by miles. Joshi is confident that her generation is unique and fated to, “do something awesome.” It seems that Priya Joshi is destined to be one of them.