The Netherlands & Belgium _ line-up

Lisette Ma Neza

Lisette Ma Neza is known for her sharp pen and sweet voice. In her mix of poetry and music she searches for her own identity, her gender, her history and place in the world. In 2017 she became the first woman, the first person of color and the first Dutch-speaking Belgian Champion Slam Poetry. In 2018 and 2019 she travelled abroad with her performance, to become Vice-European Champion Slam Poetry in Paris and Vice-World Champion in Rio de Janeiro. She now travels the world like a troubadour with her music and poetry, and then returns home to The Netherlands. Her performances balance between painfully direct and amorous naieve and they often grab the audience by the throat.

Babs Gons

Babs Gons is a writer, performer, host and teacher. She is the driving force behind countless spoken word initiatives in the Netherlands. She performs at festivals, literary programs, museums, debate centers and libraries, reads on radio and television and has traveled with her work to South Africa, Sudan, Curaçao, Suriname and Brazil. She has her own performance collective, De Vurige Harten Club, with which she creates short, powerful performances around all kinds of themes, for different spaces and occasions. She was a jury member of the J.M.A. Biesheuvel Prize, the Great Poetry Prize and the Annie M.G. Schmidt Prize. In 2018 she won the Black Achievement Award for Art and Culture and in the spring of 2019 Hardop was published by Atlas Contact, a collection compiled by her with the work of 18 Dutch spoken word poets. Babs writes articles and is a columnist for Het Parool, among others. Photo by Annaleen Louwens.

Roziena Salihu

Roziena Salihu is a multidisciplinary maker. Six years ago she started writing at the Poetry Circle Nowhere. She has now been published in the collection En ze nog leven (Uitgeverij Rorschach), and in the anthology Hardop – compiled by Babs Gons (Atlas Contact). She also wrote short fiction stories for Revisor, the Sampler of Das Mag (2020) and made her debut in 2019 with her first short documentary Fufu met appelmoes for VPRO Dorst.


Seckou started as a rapper in 1998; inspired by legends like Rakim, Gift of Gab and the Wu-Tang Clan, he learned to understand and create his own world. He loves the technicality and platform that hiphop offers, but realised that nowadays people would love the music but stopped listening – so he started looking for new ways to tell his stories. In 2008, Seckou performed his first poetry slam in De Vooruit, and many followed, becoming a winner at Kif Kif, SPOKEN, EOW. Seckou wrote multiple theatre and spoken word shows and has collaborated with Blaxtar, Marie Daulne (Zap Mama), Chris Lomme, Jean Bosco Safari and Koala, among others. On stage Seckou is convincing, extremely rhythmic yet honest and witty. 

Elten Kiene

Elten Kiene is a salesman, dealing in words and language, and one of the hardest working men in Dutch literature. When he’s not performing, he works for spoken word-organisations like Woorden Worden Zinnen or Next Generation Speaks. Elten divides his time living and working between Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam and Dordrecht. His work is defined by his big heart for social awareness, starting as a founding member of hip hop group Brandwerk, until now in his role as a teacher in a youth penitentiary – all coming from his firm belief in words, personal expression, as the most powerful weapon a human can possess. This year, Elten receives the Prins Bernhard Culture Award (Zuid-Holland) for his efforts in making literature accessible to a big audience.

Daniëlle Zawadi 

Daniëlle Zawadi is mainly known for her spoken word performances, but above all else she’s a writer. Her performances are mostly about life in The Netherlands, as someone from the ‘second generation’. She won 3rd place at Kunstbende in 2017 and before that, at the age of thirteen, she published her first novel Zoiets noemen we ruzie. She appeared on spoken word stages in The Hague and Rotterdam and published on Hard//Hoofd, De Optimist and Wintertuin’s Notulen van het Onzichtbare. Her passion for wordart has made her create her own platform – now nominated for the Haagse C: Het Zwarte Schaap – to contribute to the wordart scene in The Hague and create a platform where artists can be heard. Last year, Daniëlle was part of the Poetry Circle 010 and performed at Woorden Worden Zinnen, Mensen Zeggen Dingen, Frontaal, and We The People… in De Melkweg. Recently, she won the BIPOC Voice Award at Unwanted Words.

Merlijn Huntjens

Merlijn Huntjens writes poetry. In 2016, 2017 and 2018 he was a finalist in the Dutch Championship Poetry Slam. In his poetry, Merlijn portrays regular people in seemingly ordinary situations. Secretly, the world is special, magical and above all eternal, but the characters in his poems don’t understand that. Foto door Pascal Moors.

Michelle Samba

Michelle Samba did percussion for De Toppers, Rick Astley and Robin S. She worked with Dope DOD and Orjan Nilsen, sang at BBC radio with her exchange project F.U.N.C., accompanied Ursula Rucker, Lonnie Holley, Spinvis and Lisette Ma Neza on percussion, and plays bass, sings, drums and produces for Claudia de Breij, Pink Oculus and Abbey Hoes.

Kila van der Starre

Kila van der Starre is a literary scholar and poetry critic. Her dissertation Poetry will be published outside the book at the beginning of 2021. The circulation and use of poetry (Utrecht University) about street poetry, Instagram poetry and poetry tattoos in the Netherlands and Flanders. In 2017 she founded the website and in 2018, together with Babbete Zijlstra, she published the poetry activity book 24 uur in het licht van Kila&Babsie, in the series of woorden temmen. More info: Photo by Joost Bataille.

Kila’s reading list

Aloud. Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (1994), edited by Miguel Algarín and Bob Holman

Hardop. Spoken word in Nederland (2019), curated by Babs Gons

Close Listening. Poetry and the Performed Word (1998) by Charles Bernstein

How to Read an Oral Poem (2002) by John Miles Foley

Live Poetry. An Integrated Approach to Poetry in Performance (2011) by Julia Novak