Wordly Wise – A Bellow of Poets

Dec 8 2013 | By More

Lost for Words?

After a bumper week of poetry and spoken word events, resident poet J. A. Sutherland is almost lost for words to sum it all up. Almost but not quite. And he’s still got time to make some recommendations for the week ahead.

You can always rely on poets to come up with a good pun – or perhaps the poet would prefer to say, a play on words. On Saturday evening, Inky Fingers hosted the Porty Bellow – a fine pun, and a fun evening too.

In a room in the Dalriada pub on the prom, a mix of local poets, Edinburgh stalwarts, first-time performers and three feature-poets (including London’s Salena Godden, who featured at Friday’s Open Mic) presented a plethora of words to a supportive audience.

With this sort of high standard performance, the quality of the words, and the bonhomie among all attending I can’t help wonder why these events don’t attract a large audience. It may be that the organisers lack the skill or – more likely – the funds to market things better. Perhaps it is the problem to which I have alluded that spoken word events, indeed, poets, are hard to pigeon-hole? If spoken word promoters and organisers were primarily concerned with bums-on-seats, they probably wouldn’t bother.

Then again, in an over-saturated market (or do I mean, un-supported arena) it would be encouraging if more people engaged with this form of entertainment, which stimulates the head, the heart, and the guts. But let’s not get too gloomy. On Sunday afternoon, there was a ‘Poetry Takeover’ – part of Inky Fingers Communities Project Celebrate! weekend – in Portobello Library. Poetry prescriptions were available, several workshops, take-away poetry commissions, and a table full of free poetry books.

Elsewhere in Edinburgh, there were words being spoken in the Jazz Bar, where poets gathered to raise money for the Scottish Association for Mental Health, and in a Close off the Royal Mile, Appletree Writers  launched their 2014 writing courses, along with Alice Mitchell’s new book, A View from the Weatherhouse. Since I have attempted (and failed) to highlight as many Edinburgh spoken word events as possible, the week ended with me feeling as though I had missed out on the party, despite being out every night.

A £25 audience-vote prize up for grabs

As the festive season approaches, those spoken words seem to diminish, but not diminuendo. Monday’s regular Antihoot at Henry’s Cellar Bar tends to favour songwriters over wordsmiths, but with a £25 audience-vote prize up for grabs, spoken word performers would benefit from taking their pals and their patter along. At Blind Poetics (at the Blind Poet) the same evening, there is no cash-incentive, but the congenial hosts have agreed to allow all comers a chance to perform. Even with a strict four-minute-only slot, this may turn out to be a late night.

As the week calms down, The Speakeasy at the Netherbow promises hilarity, drama, and alcohol – with a dubious claim to being educational. This week host Jo Caulfield presents Janey Godley, Professor Richard Wiseman, Juliette Burton and many more, with dramatic and often hilarious insights into their varied worlds. On Thursday, for another trip to Portobello, you can find a small coterie of emerging writers presenting their work in the Skylark café. At Xmas at Skylark there will be poetry, flash fiction, music, alcohol and, undoubtedly, larks.

Friday sees another clash that will leave me with a tough decision. Ceasura, at the Artisan Bar, will be as varied and entertaining as any of the monthly events that Goodnight Press stage, while Anatomy #7 will further push the boundaries of spoken word. A contemporary take on the music hall variety show, this is a platform for performance artists of all disciplines; a stage for risk-taking performance and breath-taking theatrics, in Summerhall’s anatomy lecture theatre. If only I could cut myself in two and attend both events.


Antihoot Open Stage: Every Monday, 8pm. Henry’s Cellar Bar, 16 Morrison St, EH3 8BJ
Blind Poetics:  Mon 8, 8pm. The Blind Poet, 32 W Nicolson St,  EH8 9DD
Jo Caulfied Presents… The Speakeasy: Tue 9, 8pm. £6. The Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR
Xmas at Skylark: Thurs 12, 7.30pm. The Skylark, 241 Portobello High St, EH15 2AW
Ceasura: Fri 13, 7pm. The Artisan Bar, 35 London Rd, EH7 5BQ
Anatomy #7: Fri 13, 7pm. £6. Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL


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