Wordly Wise 18.XI.13

Nov 20 2013 | By More

Off the Rails, Out of the Box

Out and about with poet J. A. Sutherland. This week he has been out sampling and delivering those words. Or are they words? Here’s his take on this, and the week ahead from Monday 18 November, 2013.

Before launching into (or jumping out of) this week’s box of wordly delights, I thought I’d make mention of the Antisocial Writer’s zine-launch last Saturday at Summerhall.

With the theme of Circus, there was everything from music to mono cycles, storytelling to fortunetelling, crazy cabaret acts, aerial acrobats, and stalls selling cookies and cakes, books and zines and bric-a-brac. The anti-zine itself was a colourful, hand-stitched, mixed bag of off-the-wall writing and zany illustration.

Some words were reflected in the decorations in the Dissection Room. “Is that a curtain of broccoli?” someone asked. Why, yes! This was indeed a strange, whimsical, and thoroughly entertaining afternoon of words, spoken or not.

I’m not sure if anyone has coined the phrase, ‘pigeonhole a poet at your peril’. If not, that’s it coined. One organiser of another regular event, Syndicate, describes this as: “abrasive electronic scratching over the things we used to call words. Sometimes there aren’t even words.”

This week, in Syndicate 9 Holly Pester, Verity Spott and Henry Stead will explore the theme of ‘Inappropriation’ through innovative poetics, multimedia artworks, interactive performances, lively debate and, of course, sparkling wine. To say ‘of course’ implies that most spoken word has added alcohol, but Syndicate doesn’t lurk in the back room of a pub. Inspace is an ideal venue for this sort of cutting-edge, outside-the-box performance.

There are less conventional performance-spaces for poetry. The upper deck of an open-top Tour Bus, for example. But those serial collaborators, Inky Fingers, have teamed up with Previously… Scotland’s History Festival and Edinburgh Bus Tours, inviting four local poets to write poems specifically based on the Tour Bus Guides’ banter: Poets on a Tour Bus.

Two tour guides have come out of their winter hibernation to join us. In the morning they will be with Max Scratchman and Nicole Strachan (here’s her blog on the matter), and in the afternoon with Andrew Blair and J. A. Sutherland (ie, me). We’ll be telling poetic tales about the various historic characters of the Old and New Town. Poetry Buses plan to leave Hanover Street on the hour, 10 ’til 4 (not 1pm.)

The History Festival also features plenty of other performances, some mentioned elsewhere on this site, but while we’re on the subject of poets and pubs, it’s worth pointing out that there is a long tradition of writers meeting in public houses. Rose Street was a well-known haunt. It’s appropriate, then, that A Random History of Scottish Poetry and Song should be held just around the corner, at the Voodoo Rooms (Thurs 21), with performances by many of the voices who populate the current Edinburgh scene.

A famous Lemon Drizzle Cake raffle

Elsewhere on Thursday evening, the Percy Poets meet in the Persevere on Easter Road for a Sisters of Percy Poets night as part of Previously…  and the Soap Box Poets will be in the (packed-out, if the same as last week’s Lit Soc Slam) Pleasance Cabaret Bar for Tongue Tied.

For my third mention of ‘cabaret’ I must introduce Rally and Broad, the eponymous hosts of one of the most eclectic evenings of spoken word: An Edinburgh Cabaret of Words, Music & Lyrical Delights. Run by Rachel McCrum and Jenny Lyndsay, performance is at the heart of the entertainment.

The spoken word element is always varied, and can include poetry, prose, drama, dance (yes, with words) and occasionally performance so experimental that there is no box to contain it. Last month’s Rally & Broad was less wordy than usual, but this Friday’s Heroes and anti-Heroes offers some of the best performers of words, including poets Rachel Amey, Ross Sutherland and Theresa Munoz, theatre-maker Jenna Watt, and music from Jonnie Common. Upstairs in the Counting House, 8pm.

Finally, another group that defies categorisation is the Shore Poets – mainly due to their choice of venue. You won’t find them on The Shore in Leith, but in Henderson’s at  St John’s, on the last Sunday evening of the month. This comprises readings from a featured poet (this week, Gerrie Fellows) a local poet, a Shore Poet, and two slots for audience members brave enough to put their name in a hat. There’s also live music, and a famous Lemon Drizzle Cake raffle. Although this is more sedate than other events, sometimes the words are not what you’d expect to hear beneath a church.

It seems that, far from being easy to categorise, spoken word is a peripatetic creature. It’s found in cabaret bars, cafés and crypts, pubs, clubs, dissection rooms, theatres and even on the top deck of a Tour Bus. Maybe one day there will be words spoken on the Trams. But don’t hold your breath.

Listings Monday 18 – Sunday 24 November 2013:

Anti-Hoot Open Stage: Every Monday. 8pm, Henry’s Cellar Bar, 16 Morrison St, EH3 8BJ
Syndicate 9 Wed 20, Inspace 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB
Poets on a Tour Bus Thurs 21. Hanover Street,
A random history of Scottish Poetry and Song Thurs 21, 7.30pm, £5/£4, Voodoo Rooms, 19 West Register Street Lane, EH2 2AA
Sisters of Percy Poets  Thurs 21. 7.30pm for 8pm start. The Persevere Easter Road, Edinburgh, EH6 8H
 Soap Box Poets: Tongue Tied Thurs 21, 7.30pm, Pleasance Cabaret Bar, The Pleasance, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ
Rally and Broad present Heroes and anti-Heroes Fri 22, 7.30pm, £5. The Counting House, West Nicholson Street, EH8 9DD
Shore Poets Sun 24, 7.45pm, £5 (£3) Henderson’s at St John’s, 3 Lothian Road, Edinburgh


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