Dizzy with words

SPOKEN word poetry is an onstage performance that gained popularity in Malaysia during recent times, and Liyana Dizzy is one of its enthusiasts. A household name in the local literary scene, she has read to audience in cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Kathmandu, and Melbourne.

In spite of her extensive experience, stage fright remains a hurdle. However, rather than letting this fear defeat her, she created a quaint and innovative offstage poetry performance in the form of #GeraiPuisiSegera (GPS). The ‘instant noodle’-style poetry booth serves up rhymes in public, written in five to 10 minutes on her late grandfather’s typewriter, for anyone who’d offer three words.

“Writing was an isolated experience for me because I grew up writing by myself. As such, reading aloud to people onstage was a jarring change that left me reeling with anxiety. Although I wanted to engage people with my works, I felt miserable.

“A friend then suggested the instant poetry idea and I liked it. Lightweight, interactive and memorable, it’s also a good practice for me to stop obsessing over poems for months on end because I’ll never finish anything that way. With GPS, my goal is to complete every poem I started, engage with people and make them feel like a part of the process,” she explained.

Poetry is creative writing and creative juice is known to be fickle. How do you complete poem after poem in such a short time?

The catch here is that anyone can write poems; it’s just a matter of whether you’re good at it or not. For most people, it is good enough that I completed their poems because they didn’t know what to expect. Besides, good is subjective; do you think my poem is good because it really is or because I did the ‘impossible’ by completing it? It’s a bit of a reverse psychology you see.

Has there been an occasion where you couldn’t complete it?

No, I can always finish it. It’s just a matter of whether you like it or not. I’ve written over 200 poems to date, so it’s a case of quantity over quality. I’m sure there were a few that weren’t up to par, but since GPS usually catches patrons off guard at art bazaars, they find it cool that I could finish it.

How much do you price your poems?

It’s by donation, hence I’ll ask them to read the finished product and pay what they think it’s worth. To an extent, I’m also asking people to value poetry as we’re not raised to monetise poetry. Without charging, I’m challenging you to consider its worth.

Elaborating from that, what is the most and least amount of money that you’ve gotten for it?

Frankly, it varies. One poem made a mother cried to which she gave me RM50, while I’ve also gotten RM1 before. Interestingly enough, I received an artwork once in exchange for my poem and that’s kind of priceless.

In what ways do you think poetry has helped you?

I’m bad at authority and structure, and poetry liberates me from those. Yes, sure, there are structures in poems and even pre-made templates of such structures, but there are ultimately no fixed rules. Writing is how I offload my feelings and thought processes onto paper, but long-form writing is challenging as I don’t have time. Meanwhile, poem is a bite-sized alternative that is more flexible.


Nickname: Dizzy.

Feline vs. canine: Feline.

Secret talent: Picking up languages for survival.

Causes she supports: Climate change and helping marginalised communities.

Fastest poem-writing time: Five minutes.