Diving into the world of slam poetry with Zohab Zee Khan


Zohab introduces himself at a writers’ workshop with Concordia students.

by Andrew Y., grade 8 student 

“I write,

I write not to fight,

but to love,

‘I write not to fight

but to fight’

to bring light into darkness,

I write to inspire those who desire to fly high.

Poetry, your mind,

set to a degree to

hopelessly love the love of poetry.”

Zohab Zee Khan, one of the world’s most celebrated slam poets and hip-hop artists, champion of Australian Poetry Slam Competition and a finalist of International Slam Poetry, was warmly welcomed by Concordia Humanities teachers and students from eighth to eleventh grade for a recent workshop on the art of poetry slam.

Zohab was born as a fourth generation Australian of Pakistani descendant. Growing up in Australia as the only non-white student in his school and experiencing racism from peers made him decide to combat racism for the rest of his life. Indeed, he has, and he has used his passion for poetry to do so.

Discovering slam poetry at the age of 13 when it was a new art form, Zohab began writing slam poetry every day about his humiliating experiences. Zohab found himself lost in the combination of rhythms and poetry, feeling how the power of words resonated inside his heart, curing his wounds gradually.

We were lucky to have Zohab visit Concordia while he was here to perform at the annual Shanghai Literary Festival. He spent a whole day at school leading workshops about slam poetry.

At the start of our session, Zohab taught us to “brain dump” by simply writing down everything that we could in 60 seconds, including our negativity, our stress, our current emotions and all of our clandestine internal thoughts that we fear to voice publicly. Then we ordered these items according to stress, and chose the top item/word to be the focus of a paragraph. From the paragraph, we selected the finest parts and constructed those as a poem.

Tracing our deepest feelings and experiences, we were inspired to examine our internal psychological world. We were fully capable of expressing ourselves and this private, interior life. As we wrote, we dug deeper and more thoroughly into our feelings, and we found our words naturally transforming into poetry.

After several practice runs, we were finally ready to present our poetry in the traditional slam form, pacing ourselves with perfect rhythms. As our classmates presented, we heard criticism about politics, economics, morality, humanity and the environment, covering subjects from Trump’s policies to global warming, from economic globalization to media negativity.

I found it particularly touching to hear the beauty of words written by my peers. Yet it also made me feel regretful about many negative things happening in our world, as there was more darkness than light in most poems.

Poetry has always been regarded as one of the most lyric and ethereal forms of literature and Concordia students were so lucky to spend time with Zohab while he was in Shanghai. Here is a poem that I wrote as a result of our workshop with Zohab.


Zohab played his didgeridoo during poetry workshops with students, tying together music, performance and the beauty of words.


Put on your mask.

You told me,

No one can lie,

No one can hide,

When he looks inside your eye.


He lies,

He denies,

A lie isn’t lie,

Unless he died.


Put on your wig.

You told me,

You would make it great,

You would polish it with grace,

Yet you let us fade.


A dead man tells no lies.

You lied not to me

But to thousands of lives

That could have been alive.


How dare you lie?