Flyte to the finish

Feb 25 2014 | By More

Percy Poets go out on a Flyte of fancy

Who would win the Edinburgh Flyting 2014 cup? Photo © Johnni Stanton

Who would win the Edinburgh Flyting 2014 cup? Photo © Johnni Stanton

By Johnni Stanton and Thom Dibdin

Leith’s Percy Poets have had to call it a night after their eponymous pub, the Persevere on Easter Road, turned its lounge over completely to the provision of provender.

No booze, but the Percy Poets won’t lose. The spoken word night has now moved to the Constitution bar where it will continue to operate on the third Wednesday of the month, but under a different – as yet to be decided – name.

Determined to go out on high, the Percy Poets last stanza took on Scottish tradition of flyting, which dates from the 15th century. It is a form of verbal duelling in which two makars would combat in a poetic joust, a furious contest of verbal abuse which combined extraordinary verbal dexterity with the most vulgar of insults.

The most famous of these, the 16th century flyting between William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy in front of the Court of James IV of Scotland brought eye-watering new insults to the language.

This then, was the Edinburgh Flyting 2014 – combative flyting in heats, with a cup for the winner donated by the Craigmillar Archives Trust.

The Flyting had just four rules to follow.
1) The insults must be in poetic forms.
2) Do not deliberately insult your opponent as a person anyone should hate.
3) Do not insult their body of work as being of bad taste or workmanship.
4) This is for FUN. Remember that at all times. This is NOT a battle of badness but FUN!

“mowing opponents down”

And so old battle lines were dusted off, new lines honed, opponents chosen, and the heats commenced, as reported by Æ’s Percy Poet correspondent: Johnni Stanton.

Sean O'Dell, Edinburgh Flyting champion 2014 Photo © Johnni Stanton

Sean O’Dee, Edinburgh Flyting champion 2014 Photo © Johnni Stanton

“Another very interesting night for the last ever Percy Poets. We had more first timers, Suky and Sheila, who had some great poetry. For the first time, nobody had anything more than notes to read from, or they made it up as they went along…

“Which introduced us to the new superstar we call Audrey, who beat me in the first round! I was astonished that she was as good as was. She deservedly won our heat.

“Our three Judges had the rules in front of them and Ian, Jim and Blair said it was the hardest thing they had ever been asked to do. The heats continued, mowing opponents down, and then in the second round it got tougher.

“Insults flew, some got much applause for originality and audience reaction. According to the judges, the final was very close … between our own Rose Ritchie and Dublin’s Sean O’Dee.

“Their final poetry  was The Battle of the Sexes. But each poet decrying their own sex with some well chosen words. I winced … I winced a lot! And I’m no wilting lily. But finally with only one point separated the finalists (I couldn’t call it, it was that close) Sean O’Dee was declared the winner and is now The Edinburgh Flyting Champion 2014.

“Congratulations to ALL of our participants and audience.”  – Johnni Stanton

The ex-Percy Poets will be now meeting on the third Wednesday of every month in The Red Room, The Constitution Bar, 48 Constitution Street, EH6 6RS.

The series kicks-off on Wednesday 19 March 2014 with Poems and Jam Bees.


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