Spoken Word at the Edinburgh Festival

I know you’re all getting a bit sick of me banging on about DorkyDad’s show at the Edinburgh Festival, so I thought I’d balance things out a little by highlighting some of the other spoken word events that I’m looking forward to. I use the phrase ‘spoken word’ intentionally, in an attempt to avoid stoking the ongoing debate about whether performance poetry is really any different to other kinds of poetry… because really, there are plenty other places on teh interwebs for discussing that.

Spoken word is always a challenge because it doesn’t quite fit into any of the neat categories that reviewers like to use – it’s not really theatre (although if it’s good there’s usually a touch of drama), it’s not really comedy (although if it’s good it can often be pretty funny), and it’s not really music (although it is often lyrical and sometimes involves musical accompaniment).

That said, spoken word performances can be some of the most inventive, innovative and rewarding shows of the Festival; props to the PBH Free Fringe for having a dedicated spoken word section in their programme.

Some of the ones I’m most looking forward to are:

Blind Poetics – Weekly Cabaret: Hosted by Edinburgh favourite Texture (of Chemical Poets fame), this is the August expansion of the monthly Blind Poetics night that takes place throughout the rest of the year. Expect short stories, poetry, monologues, music, and lots and lots of beer.

Catherine Brogan’s Poetry Hitch: I haven’t yet seen her perform, but Catherine Brogan is one of those names I’ve kept hearing since last year’s festival, so I’m hoping to make it along this time. The Northern Irish squatter poet (yes, really) will be hitchhiking her way to Edinburgh, and is offering guest spots to poets she meets along the way.

Inky Fingers MiniFest: InkyFingers is another regular Edinburgh night, run by the ever-interesting Harry Giles. The MiniFest is taking place as part of the FringeWords series of events at the Forest Café this summer. There will be an international flavour to the festival, with poets including Daan Doeesborgh and Sergio Garau making the trip across to Edinburgh.

Hydronomicon: Featuring another of the Chemical Poets, slam champ Harlequinade, along with producer Asthmatic Astronaut, this is where to come for your hip-hop fix. Audience members at last month’s Blind Poetics got a brilliant teaser performance of this, and a show that’s described as a rap apocalypse can’t possibly be bad.

UrBanter: Hurrah! Anita Govan has been kinda quiet recently (by quiet I mean she’s been working on a new collection and doing workshops in schools and communities, rather than tearing up the stages of Edinburgh like she was a year or two back…) but she’s back for a week of performances at the PBH Free Fringe. There will be top notch poetry and music, it takes place in a pub, and it’s free to get in. All good.

Utter: Utter is only at the Fringe for three nights this year, rather than the epic 22 show run that they managed last year – but quality over quantity and all that, right? Two of the shows are solo spoken word performances from Utter host Richard Tyrone Jones, and one is the grand finale of spoken word at the PBH Free Fringe, featuring all the festival favourites.

There are a load of other great looking spoken word shows taking place – The Hardly Boys and John Hegley to name just two – so if it’s your thing then do check out the programmes on the Fringe and PBH Free Fringe sites.

(Psssst. I know I said I wouldn’t, but I just can’t help myself… Young Dawkins -What I Know About Women So Far is also taking place as part of the PBH Free Fringe. As well as new poems from the Scottish Slam Poetry Champion 2011, there will be guest spots featuring some well kent faces from the Scottish poetry scene (and possibly even further afield…), along with music from Salsa Celtica’s Steve Kettley, and the Click Clack Club’s Dave Conway. It’s all very exciting indeed!) 

Beautiful, blind, poetic bananas. Or something.

DorkyDad and I went on a date night!

We started off with some edible awesomeness at Fishers in Leith, before taking in the full spectrum of the Edinburgh poetry scene in just two events.

First up was the launch of Emily Dodd’s book, which took place on the fab Leith Agency boat on The Shore. Banana Me Beautiful, published by Chipmunka Press, is a collection of artwork, photography and poetry from three different stages of Emily’s life – Innocent (Age 9-11), Lost and Found (Age 15-17), Alive (Age 25-28) – it’s a very personal collection, which is both moving and funny, and although Emily’s extensive experience of working with children was in evidence during her readings (lots of audience participation!), the appeal of the book is by no means limited to kiddy readers.

The boat seemed to be crammed with half of Edinburgh’s blogging and Twitter community (highly appropriate given Emily’s work as an EdinBuzz Social Media surgeon), along with representatives from the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh City of Literature, Edinburgh Spotlight and the Edinburgh Evening News. It was great to finally put some faces to familiar names.

Sara Sheridan and Juliet Wilson (Crafty Green Poet) both read some of Emily’s poems, as did DorkyDad, (who really got into the spirit of things with his starling impersonation… ahem). Drew Murphy provided music, and the excellent Rachel Everitt had some of her illustrations on display. Thanks to Emily for a really fun evening, and to her parents for providing the wine! I hope the book does really well.

We had to scoot off before the Q&A and signing in order to get to poetry event no 2 – Blind Poetics – where unfortunately we’d missed Jenny Lindsay’s set (boo hiss), but were still in time to see Annie Phetamine, Harlequinade, Fiona Lindsay (who, disappointingly, was not barefoot) and Matthew Macdonald. I’d heard a lot of good things about Annie, and she totally blew me away; Edinburgh could do with a few more feisty, pink haired, pregnant poets. It was also my first time seeing Harlequinade read solo rather than with the Chemical Poets, and I really enjoyed his performance. I can’t wait for the festival to start, when Blind Poetics will be taking place weekly.

It’s awesome that Edinburgh can accommodate two great poetry events on one night – one on a boat where people sit and eat banana cake, and one in a pub where folk sit and drink pints – and doubly awesome that DorkyDad and I could go to them both. Thanks for babysitting, DorkyGranny… bring on the next date night.

If you want to read some other perspectives on the Banana Me Beautiful launch, it has been covered today by 12 Books in 12 Months, Helen Caldwell, Crafty Green Poet, and Emily herself.