Wordly wisdom: Ancient and Modern

March 2, 2014 | By | Reply More

New dogs, old tricks & March’s spoken word listings

Body-Language-UpcomingDo the old pooches of poetry need to practice new tricks – or are the whelps of spoken word digging up a well-gnawed bone? Resident spoken wordsmith J. A. Sutherland ponders such things – and lists Edinburgh’s spoken word events for March.

I’ll start this month’s entry with a bold statement: Spoken Word is not a brand new phenomenon.

Pre-literate culture used storytelling as a means of communication, mixed with other art-forms, and this tradition continues to inform each renewed interpretation of the practice.

From the Ancient Greeks to the Beat Poets of the fifties; from Burns providing words to fit popular tunes, to the punchy politics of the poetry-slam; this is an ancient form being constantly re-branded.

Strange, then, that the Spoken Word section of the fringe brochure is only a few years old. And when yet another poetry event crops up on the scene, namely the Loud Poets, everyone flocks as if they have finally found the end of the rainbow. Stranger still, that these new kids on the block make a bold suggestion that, until their arrival, poetry was ‘boring.’ This doesn’t explain its appeal or ubiquity. Poetry is like alcohol: there isn’t a single life-event that doesn’t merit its presence.

It may be the YouTube generation that helped generate the large audience who went to the Loud Poets’ launch last Saturday. If you type ‘performance poetry’ into YouTube, it will bring up mainly slam-poetry. This pretty-much sums up the style of the spoken words on offer at the Loud Poets, and I think among their disciples there are some strong role-models, not least Miko Berry, one of the group’s founders. But even Miko’s upbeat, feel-good poem, This is Your Day, has its dissenters, as we heard at February’s Blind Poetics, in Suky Goodfellow’s introspective riposte Tomorrow is Not Okay.

Sometimes, rather than being declamatory or insightful, this poetry can come across as a rant. Agnes Török, laying down an agenda for both spoken word and issues of inclusion, shouted ‘Fuck the written word,’ which makes me uneasy. I am a writer, after all.

“lucidly tackling prejudices regarding age and sexuality”

Rachel Rankin put a strong case for listening to the wisdom of youthful poets, while Rachel Amey (acknowledged by Agnes, as I have elsewhere on this blog, as one of the best) gave a wordly-wise account of what Love does to us.

LOUDPOETSThe strongest performances of the evening were the ensemble pieces. Freddie Alexander introduced the concept of ‘those for whom the gender binary is a thing of the past,’ then performed a poem-quartet with Lucy Powell, Rachel Rankin and Oscar Sapper, lucidly tackling prejudices regarding age and sexuality. Kevin McLean and Doug Garry gave a boisterous performance of Big Love, a good-humoured dig at “skinny guys”; conversely, Kevin and Miko commanded immense pathos in their delivery about friendship and suicide, accompanied by a plaintive guitar played by Mike Brown.

This “getting words off the page and into people’s faces”, as Kevin put it, can sometimes be a bit too in your face. What cannot be denied is that, besides getting over 200 people, most in their twenties, to attend an evening of poetry on a Saturday night, the Loud Poets Launch was a well-rehearsed, highly polished and professionally-presented performance, as good as any theatre, TV or cabaret show you could see in Edinburgh.

But I’ll say it again: this is not a new thing. If only we could encourage more of this audience to come to some of the quieter events, where words are just as powerful. This month begins with Illicit Ink’s Underground show which I know (because I’m in it) will also be a performance to reckon with. I’m also performing at 10Red (enough shameless self-promotion – Ed) where you will hear ten quite varied shades of spoken word at The Persevere.

Elsewhere in Leith, the formerly-named Percy Poets vacated the self-same hostelry with a Flyting as their swan-song (see Flyte to the Finish) and will take up residence in another pub. And if that’s not enough, the newest spoken word event First Thursday First Thirty Club will launch in Edinburgh’s oldest pub, the Sheep Heid in Duddingston, featuring Andrew Grieg, with open-mic poets being pulled out of a hat – although not literally.

I’ll give Freddie Alexander the final word on this, perhaps to prove my point that (as the psalmist put it) I open my mouth in a parable. Surely one of the greatest tellers of parables was Jesus Christ? If poets are “keeping with the tradition of up-turning religion with words,” Freddie tells us, then, in very deed, it must be true that “Christ was a Slam Poet!”. And here he is on video to prove it: www.youtube.com.

Listings for March

Sunday 2
Illicit Ink, Underground – Body Language The Bongo Club. 8pm. £5/£3.
From glooping bile ducts to pulsating kidneys, it’s time to pull on your surgical gloves and sharpen your scalpels as Illicit Ink Underground returns with tales of the body not-so-beautiful. Merging storytelling with animation, music, physical theatre and sweeties, the show will satisfy – or maybe just terrify – your body’s senses.
Jo Clifford, Fiona McDonald, Skye Reynolds & Sáras Feijóo, Lucy Ribchester, Tracey S Rosenberg, Caroline von Schmalensee, Max Scratchmann, J. A. Sutherland and musical/storytelling group Nerd Bait, represented by Ricky Brown. All presided over by the ever-lovely Ariadne Cass-Maran!
The Bongo Club, 66 Cowgate, EH1 1JX  Details on facebook: www.facebook.com & Bongo Club website: www.thebongoclub.co.uk
Musselburgh Hot Pot Stagg’s Arms. 7.30pm. Free.
Open floor, words and music, Hosted by Stephen Barnaby.
Stagg’s Arms, 81 North High Street, Musselburgh, EH21 6JE.  Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.

Monday 3
Antihoot (words and music) Henry’s Cellar Bar. Sign up 7.30. Free
£500 IN PRIZES! Hosted by BBC Radio 4 comedy star Lach. Admission is free. 18+ only. Doors at 5pm. Sign-up to perform at 7:30pm. Show starts at 8pm.
16 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJEvent website: www.facebook.com/Antihoot
Tricolour National Library of Scotland. 6.30pm. Free.
Three different voices, three different styles, three different takes on life. Featuring Brian Johnstone, Trio Verso, and Robin Cairns.
National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, EH1 1EW. Details on nls website: www.nls.uk/events.

Tuesday 4
Inky Fingers Open Mic – The Gentle Mic. Forest Cafe. 8pm. Free.
Inky Fingers declare it gentle mic night. First timers particularly welcomed – and work that’s kind when it needs to be but hard when it matters.
Forest Café 141 Lauriston Place, EH3 9JN. Event website: inkyfingers.org.uk.

Wednesday 5
10Red The Persevere. 8pm. £3.
Ten writers, 10 minutes each. Ft. Morag Edwards – Louise Peterkin – Rodger Evans – Jem Rolls – Vicki Jarrett – MacGillivray – Alexander Hutchison – Ross McCleary – Andrew C. Ferguson – J. A. Sutherland. Hosted by Kevin Cadwallender 8pm. £3 including FREE raffle.
The Persevere, Easter Road, Edinburgh, EH6 8HT. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com

Thursday 6
First Thursday First Thirty Club, The Sheep Heid Inn. 7.30pm. Collection.
The new poetry, storytelling and music venue in Scotland’s oldest pub. Host: Steve Harvey. Free – collection for guest poet. The first thirty will receive a raffle ticket – if their number is drawn, they get to read a poem. 7.30. Guest poet: Andrew Greig
The Sheep Heid Inn, 43-45 The Causeway, Duddingston, EH15 3QA. Event website: www.ftftclub.weebly.com.
The Significant Se7en The Counting House, 7.30pm.
An evening of prose, poetry and performance from seven of Scotland’s most exciting writers. Vicki Jarrett, Graham Fulton, Allan Wilson, Rachel McCrum, Dickson Telfer, Alan Bissett, and Samuel Best. 7.30pm
The Counting House (Pear Tree), West Nicolson Street, EH8 9DD. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.

anatomy8Sunday 9
Loud Poets Slam! Teviot Row House. £3.
Loud Poets are about to bring you some fast paced, hard hitting, poetry slam goodness for a mere £3.
Teviot Row House, 13 Bristo Square, EH8 9AJ. Even facebook page: www.facebook.com.

Monday 10
Blind Poetics The Blind Poet, 8pm. Free.
Open Mic night featuring Dickson Telfer and Treeby.
The Blind Poet, 32 W Nicolson St, EH8 9DD.Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.
Readings at the Sutton Gallery, 7pm. Free.
Poetry, pictures and wine featuring Ron Silliman, JL Williams and nick-e melville/ Anne Laure Coxam.
The Sutton Gallery, 18a Dundas Street, EH3 6HZ. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com
Antihoot (words and music) Henry’s Cellar Bar. Sign up 7.30. Free
£500 IN PRIZES! Hosted by BBC Radio 4 comedy star Lach. Admission is free. 18+ only. Doors at 5pm. Sign-up to perform at 7:30pm. Show starts at 8pm.
Henry’s Cellar Bar, 16 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com/Antihoot

Tuesday 11
The Speakeasy, Scottish Storytelling Centre, 8pm. £6.
An eclectic mix of storytelling, song, spoken word and cabaret with guest host, Loud Poet Miko Berry. Featuring columnist Julie McDowall, Rally & Broad’s Rachel McCrum, writer and musician Doug Johnstone and comedian Jojo Sutherland.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR. Event website: www.tracscotland.org

Wednesday 12
Accelerator, Canons’ Gait, 8pm. £4/3.
MCs – Jem Rolls & Bram E. Gieben. Featuring the Scottish debut of multi-award-winning Dumbarton-born Canadian Poet, Alice Major, plus Sam Small, Janette Ayachi, Kevin McClean, Rachel Amey.
Canons’ Gait, 232 Canongate, EH8 8DQ Edinburgh. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.

Magma Launch. The Blind Poet, 7.30pm. Free.
Magma Poetry magazine launches issue 58 in Edinburgh. Readers include John Glenday, Helena Nelson, Kona Macphee, Andrew Philip, JL Williams, Pippa Little, Lesley Harrison, Tom Docherty, Seth Crook and Stav Poleg in what should be a fantastic night of poetry.
The Blind Poet, 32 W Nicolson St, EH8 9DD. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.

Thursday 13
Soap Box: Standing Up. The Pleasance, 8pm. Free.
University of Edinburgh’s Spoken Word Open Mic club. This fortnight’s theme is Stand Up and features Sam Small.
Pleasance Cabaret Bar, The Pleasance, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.

Friday 14
Caesura, Artisan Bar, 7pm. £3.
Featuring Tom Leonard, Sean Burn, Julie Johnstone, and Luke Allan.
Artisan Bar, 35 London Road, EH7 5BQ. Even facebook page: www.facebook.com.
ANATOMY #8 Happy Rainbow Radio Funtime Show, Summerhall, 7.45pm, £6
Ft, Ed Crawley, Jusztina Hermann, Francesca Lacey, Manoli Moriaty & Frances Kay, Klaus Pinter, Sarah Roberts, Sara Zaltash, Scrapyard, and Voice Box Theatre. Hosted by Harry Giles and Ali Maloney.
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL Event website: www.anatomynight.wordpress.com.

Monday 17
Antihoot (words and music) Henry’s Cellar Bar. Sign up 7.30. Free
£500 IN PRIZES! Hosted by BBC Radio 4 comedy star Lach. Admission is free. 18+ only. Doors at 5pm. Sign-up to perform at 7:30pm. Show starts at 8pm.
16 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com/Antihoot

Wednesday 19
Poets Intercommunity Group (formerly Percy Poets). The Constitution Bar, 7pm. Free.
Moving from The Persevere to The Red Room. “Sign up if interested. Make the honey or sting us all with your powerful and beautiful tales.”
The Red Room at The Constitution Bar 48 Constitution Street Edinburgh EH6 6RS. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.

Thursday 20
locustandmarlinLocust and Marlin Launch Saltire Society, 7pm. Free.
The Edinburgh Launch of Locust and Marlin by J. L. Williams, and Alasdair Paterson’s Elsewhere or Thereabouts.
The Saltire Society, 9 Fountain Close, EH1 1TF. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com.

Friday 21
Rally & Broad – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright. The Counting House. 8pm. £5.
Words, Music & Lyrical Delights, ft. Ryan Van Winkle, Sian Bevan, and introducing The Loud Poets. With music and storytelling from the award-winning trad artist Kirsty Law, and music from A New International. Hosted by Jenny Lindsay & Rachel McCrum.
The Counting House, West Nicholson Street, EH8 9DD. Details: www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk

Monday 24
Antihoot (words and music) Henry’s Cellar Bar. Sign up 7.30. Free
£500 IN PRIZES! Hosted by BBC Radio 4 comedy star Lach. Admission is free. 18+ only. Doors at 5pm. Sign-up to perform at 7:30pm. Show starts at 8pm.
16 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com/Antihoot

Tuesday 25
Istanbul Review Launch – 6.30, Looking Glass Books, free but ticketed.
To celebrate issue 4, War Words One, Turkish author Elif Shafak will be appearing at Looking Glass Books. Tickets from www.lookingglassbooks.com
Looking Glass Books, 36 Simpson Loan, Quartermile, EH3 9GG Event website: www.theistanbulreview.com.
Talking Heids, Sofi’s Bar,7.30pm. Free.
McGuire hosts ‘Talking Heids’ an extravaganza of poetry exuberance and musical delights!
Sofi’s Bar, 65 Henderson Street, EH6 6ED. Event facebook page: www.facebook.com

Thursday 27
Soap Box, The Pleasance, 8pm. Free.
Open Mic, run by University Lit Soc; theme ‘The End’ ft. Anita Govan. Free. 8pm
Pleasance Cabaret Bar, The Pleasance, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ. Soap Box facebook page: www.facebook.com

Friday 28
◉ Andrew Greig & Fiona Hunter. The Queen’s Hall, 6.30pm. £14 (£12).
A selection  of readings from Greig’s published works  including Fair Helen with musical  interludes from the Fiona Hunter Band – followed by an hour-long set from the band.
The Queen’s Hall Clerk Street Edinburgh EH9 9JG. Event website: www.thequeenshall.net

Sunday 30
Shore Poets. Hendersons at St John’s. 7.15pm. £4/£3.
An invited feature poet, a Shore Poet member and introducing a local poet; two wildcard opportunities, and Lemon Cake raffle.
Henderson’s at St John’s, 3 Lothian Road,  EH2 2EJ. http://shorepoets.org.uk/

Monday 31
Antihoot (words and music) Henry’s Cellar Bar. Sign up 7.30. Free
£500 IN PRIZES! Hosted by BBC Radio 4 comedy star Lach. Admission is free. 18+ only. Doors at 5pm. Sign-up to perform at 7:30pm. Show starts at 8pm.
16 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ. Event website: www.facebook.com/Antihoot

April: Friday 4
Vive the [R]évolution, Institut Francais, 7pm. £5/£3.
A triptych of poetry nights à propos translation of and between French and Scottish poetry, hosted by three contemporary Scottish poets. In part two, nick-e melville will talk about his translation of bureaucratic language and his use of personal material.
Institut Francais d’Ecosse, 13 Randolph Crescent, EH3 7TT. Event website: www.ifecosse.org.uk.

J. A. Sutherland also has his own blog at: http://throughtheturretwindow.blogspot.co.uk/

If you would like a spoken word event listed on All Edinburgh Theatre, please use the contact page to get in touch: http://alledinburghtheatre.com/about-2/contact/

ENDS

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