Life with A Poet at the Edinburgh Fringe

This originally featured as a guest post on the excellent blog 12 Books in 12 Months. Thanks to lovely Ali for the opportunity to post there. As well as checking out her blog, you should become a fan on Facebook.

It was also, rather excitingly, published on Huffington Post UK.

It’s not always easy being married to a poet. Young and I use up a significant number of babysitting credits, not on romantic dinners, but on evenings in dingy pubs, where I sit and watch him reading to half a dozen people. He is always shouting ‘that’s a poem’ in the middle of our conversations, and rushing off to scribble down a phrase or idea. And we spend hours trekking around stationery shops looking for just the right notebooks, because no others will do (yellow Levenger – A4 – lined).

I have always consoled myself with the thought that maybe, one day, Young would write a lovely poem about what a wonderful and supportive wife I am.

In some moment of madness, earlier this year, Young agreed to do a solo show as part of the PBH Free Fringe. He may have still been on some crazy, slam-induced adrenaline high after his time at the Poetry World Cup in Paris, or he may have genuinely thought it was a good idea… I will never know.

All I know is that it has taken over our lives for the last couple of months. We had no idea what was involved (and I use ‘we’ intentionally – this has certainly been a joint venture). Doing a ten minutes slot at someone else’s show is one thing; doing a whole hour by yourself is quite another.

There is the constant emailing about organisation, the Fringe registration, and the flyers… there are Tweets, texts, and Facebook event pages… there are press releases to send, photos to resize, programme entries to write, and blog posts to pimp…there is deciding what to wear, and how to stand, and whether it’s okay to read off the page… there is showing up to every other spoken word show, in the hope that the favour is returned… there is flyering in the rain, a preview in London that you really don’t want to do… and then that awful feeling of performing to two people, one of whom is your mother-in-law.

Oh yeah, and then there’s that hour-long show to write.

So why does he do it? What makes it worthwhile? I can’t speak for Young, but I think it’s probably for the small moment of satisfaction you get; from that one person who comes up at the end of a show and says that one of your poems has touched their heart; from that one stranger who takes the time to write something nice on your Facebook page; and from that one short but sweet review (she says, hopefully) that you can cut out and stick in your son’s scrapbook.

I do not grudge a minute of the time that Young and I have spent working on his show. Putting all bias aside, I think it is wonderful, and I am incredibly proud of him. I don’t even mind that in order to hear the one poem that he finally wrote about me, I have to sit and listen to fifty minutes of poetry about the other women in his life. I just hope that after all that effort someone (other than my Mum) shows up.

Young Dawkins performs What I Know About Women So Far at The Royal Oak on the following dates:

8th-11th and 15th August at 2pm

22nd-25th August at 3.15pm

You can visit his website at

He is also compering the first BBC Slam Poetry Competition at the Fringe, details of which can be found here, here, and here.

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!) 

A Quiet Week (ha!)

Sorry it’s been such a quiet week on here… here are my excuses for the lack of posts.

1. We are still recovering from last weekend’s wedding in Ireland.

2. I’ve been a bit wiped out – on a combination of codeine and antibiotics – because I’ve had an infected wisdom tooth. Ouch. If anyone has had their wisdom teeth out, please share your experiences (although not the gory details…) in the comments, to help me make my mind up about whether to do the same.

3. DorkySon’s sleep is the worst it has been since he was a newborn. Hello again 3am wakeups! And 5am too! And no daytime nap anymore! Urgh. I’m hoping it’s just the light nights, and come the dark Scottish winter he’ll back to his twelve hours a night again…

4. I’ve been writing guest posts instead of posts for my own blog. Lovely Scribbling Mum is taking a well-earned break next week, and I’ll have something up on her site on Tuesday. And I’ve been paired up with Sylwia Presley‘s excellent parenting, photography and tech blog for the BritMums blog match up, so I should have something up there next week too.

5. I’ve been helping DorkyDad get ready for his PBH Free Fringe Show – Young Dawkins – What I Know About Women So Far. Writing press releases, doing online questionnaires, chasing printers, emailing friends, creating Facebook event pages… so much going on and his run doesn’t even start for another fortnight! The spoken word section of the Fringe, and especially the Free Fringe, looks really good this year. I’m hoping to have time for a post this coming week detailing some of the shows I’m most excited about seeing.

6. And on that note, my biggest excuse for the lack of posts is that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around all the children’s shows at the Fringe, in preparation for my role as Kids Editor for Fest magazine. While I’m certainly not complaining about being asked to do such a fab job, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the shows with DorkySon, the prep work is time consuming and doesn’t really play to my natural strengths! Writing reviews – oh aye! Trying to pull together a review schedule for our six kiddy reviewers, and plan the pages for the five editions of Fest that will be published in the space of fifteen days?! Mmm, not so much! That said, the Preview edition was published this week, and looks fantastic. For a round up of the children’s shows, split into age ranges to make it easier to choose, check it out online here. And if you’re a visitor to Edinburgh and want to know the best places to eat, drink and escape the Festival crowds, check out this feature. And let that information act as my notice that it’s also likely to be pretty quiet on here over August…

7. Just to prove I’m not a total moaning Minnie, I’ll also share my highlight of the week, which was receiving an email from a friend overseas. She said that she’d just sat down and caught up with my life via this blog, and that it was almost as good as sitting down with me in person and catching up over a large glass of wine. Definitely the best blog compliment I’ve been paid so far, so thanks A!

The Oyster and the Raccoon

We came back from our holiday to very good news! Jack Henderson (of Jack Draws Anything fame) had drawn our picture.

I’d requested the picture of behalf of DorkyDad – it is an oyster and a raccoon – and Jack gives a great explanation on his website about how he based it on a famous painting that he liked.

In response, I’ve sent Jack a copy of this children’s poem called The Perfect Sea Island Night – which DorkyDad wrote years and years ago – that inspired the request.


A Perfect Sea Island Night


A fine warm night

on a fresh tide beach,

watched over by an orange

waning moon.



Two old friends met

with a song in their hearts,

an oyster

and a raccoon.



The coon played a flute,

the oyster a drum,

and the music spread

on the breeze.



Soothing the restless,

calming the dark,

while birds relaxed

in the trees.



And a glorious sound

swelled up to the sky;

the stars were tinselled

and bright



When two old friends

found a song in their hearts

on a perfect

Sea Island night.


Thanks Jack, we think your picture is a perfect illustration of the poem!

The other exciting news when we got back is that the artwork for DorkyDad’s Spoken Word show at this year’s PBH Free Fringe is done. It has been done by a very talented designer friend, Sabrina Russo, and looks fab. Here is a sneaky wee preview of the front of the flyer.

Let us know what you think, and keep an eye on DorkyDad’s poetry page for more details of the show.

The Perfect Sea Island Night is © Young Dawkins, 1970. Do not republish without permission.

Festival fever is coming…

I am getting mighty excited about this year’s Edinburgh Festival. Before going on hols I spent a busy couple of weeks writing some articles on kids shows for Fest, and during August DorkySon and I will be squeezing in as many reviews as we can. Meantime DorkyDad will be doing his debut solo show – What I Know About Women So Far – at the PBH Free Fringe, so we have been getting ready for that, and will be sending the flyers off to print soon. You may just get a sneaky preview on here in a week or two…

Anyway, in the spirit of all that, I thought I’d share some of my favourite pictures from last year’s Fringe. Some of them made it onto the Flickr slideshows over at Guardian Edinburgh, and I think that site will be very much missed over the summer; not just by performers, promoters, photographers and the like, but by ordinary folk seeking out the best information about what’s going on.





pearl earring

tweed caps

only happy when it rains

trail of destruction

red rope


the queen and the jester

yellow glasses

pillow talk


I can’t wait to get out and about with my camera to see what characters there are around town this year!