Flutura Balaj will be performing her slam poetry for the first time tonight. When I meet with her she is preparing for the performance, which will be accompanied by a choreography by Hana Fjolla, and is taking part in the science fair at the American School of Kosovo. I was definitely not as active in high school as she is, and most definitely did not have the courage to perform in front of an audience – especially not something like slam poetry, one of the most confrontational forms of poetry.
If Balaj is jittery, it’s not obvious. Her poems will be performed in the form of a monologue, and will touch topics drawn from her life: relationships with people, gender differences enforced by society, and bullying. Slam poetry is not a common form of poetry in Kosovo; I assume it is so because it is too confrontational to fit in the definition of poetry as we learned in school: an ordering of beautiful words, not necessarily filled with rebellious or personal content. An exception may be Jonida Beqo of Albania, who won awards in the US for performing her poems (who even participated in Femart Festival’s last edition).
But Balaj’s journey toward slam poetry happened spontaneously. “I wrote slam poetry without knowing what it was,” she says. She explains how a friend had sent her a performance called “Hi, I’m a Slut” from American poetry slammer Savannah Brown – the moment when Balaj had said to herself, “Hey, I actually do this thing!”
Balaj has so far only shared her slam poetry with her friends – and after following two editions of Femart festival closely, she decided to apply to participate as an artist alongside her other two friends. I ask Balaj if it is difficult to do slam poetry in a country like Kosovo, which is obsessed with the concept of a public image – a country that often rejects the inner world women have – especially when they’re still teenagers. “It depends on the audience. It’s a lot easier if the audience is more liberal. If they’re more conservative, they’ll feel like you’re twisting their arm. ”
Balaj’s performance is tonight at the Oda Theater, right after the play “Bits and Pieces”. For the latest news from the festival, follow us on this website, or on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.