Blog | Spoken Word

Giving Voice – Wordly Wisdom for All

Giving the quiet folk a voice

 Photo: Thanks to Kevin Cadwallendar.For his round-up of spoken word events during the last weeks of April, resident poet J. A. Sutherland looks at events drowned out by the louder voices – in particular, those that don’t claim to be ‘spoken word’ but in which words are spoken and/or read aloud.

Over the last month or so there have been several book launches which, naturally, include readings. Two well-established publications – Magma, and The Istanbul Review – held their Edinburgh launches, in The Blind Poet and Looking Glass Books respectively.

Later in March, a capacity audience squashed into the Saltire Society for the launch of two new poetry books. The first was Alasdair Paterson, who read from his book Elsewhere or Thereabouts with … Continue reading Giving Voice – Wordly Wisdom for All

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Wordly Wise – April Collisions

Opened doors, public art and poetics…

13 The Culture Collider

The Culture Collider

Now that the stooshie over spoken word performance has hopefully died down, here are this week’s collisions of culture and – even – science from resident perveyor of poetry J. A. Sutherland.

As spring tries to fight its way through the fog (that some folk erroneously called the “ha’ar”) there has been a profusion of public art popping up. Lights in St Andrew’s Square, photographs on The Mound and, last week, a dazzling display of artwork in the dank dungeons of Market Street.

Hidden Doors was more than just public art; it was a statement about how we use the empty spaces in our city and illuminate our darkest places. Particularly thought-provoking was the installation by … Continue reading Wordly Wise – April Collisions

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Wordly Wise: Coming up this week…

Spoken Word for Tuesday 1 to Sunday 6 April

It’s no April Fool, that there’s some top spoken word action in Edinburgh this week. Not least behind the hidden doors of the Hidden Door festival. Here’s J. A. Sutherland’s round-up.

Toni Stuart

Toni Stuart

Tuesday 1

Inky Fingers Open Mic Forest Cafe. 8pm. Free.
Featuring quiet word magic all the way from South Africa with Toni Stuart. Toni is a poetry writer, performer and developer. She is curator of Poetica at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, where she is based, and a member of And Word Was Woman ensemble. Open Mic slots are five minutes long; e-mail to sign up and be sure of a slot.
Forest Café 141 Lauriston Place, EH3 9JN. Event website:
Songwriter’s Cellar Owl Nighter Launch Henry’s Cellar Bar, 7pm. Free.
Launch of the Owl Nigter ‘zine loosely based around Lach’s Antihoot.
16 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ. Event website: … Continue reading Wordly Wise: Coming up this week…

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Wordly Wisdom: Read or recited – it’s all performed

Slammed-poet argues for diversity not directives

Jem Rolls’ recent comments to Æ concerning performance poetry and the art of reading have caused a right stramash among Edingurgh’s poetry peeps these past few weeks. Resident spoken wordsmith J. A. Sutherland has penned a riposte.

Rally & Broad

Rally & Broad. Photo © Chris Scott

When the so-called Godfather of Scottish performance poetry talks about an “aesthetic regression” in the scene, you know something’s up. Yes, indeed: Jem Rolls’ contribution to this blog certainly put a lot of backs up.

To say he created a healthy debate in the household would be a generous evaluation. So, is Jem Rolls still Head of the Family? A benevolent patriarch, playground bully or wily provocateur??

It seemed, as I watched the shots being fired over various social-media sites and pints of beer, the main difficulty was in defining what I have chosen to describe as ‘spoken word’. This encompasses all forms of Live Literature, and goodness knows, Edinburgh’s ‘scene’ is diverse to the point of total dilution: sometimes, there are no words spoken. … Continue reading Wordly Wisdom: Read or recited – it’s all performed

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Slam poet slams scene’s “aesthetic regression”

Is Edinburgh’s performance poetry scene being diluted?

Jem Rolls. Photo © Mattheus Kothe

Jem Rolls. Photo © Mattheus Kothe

By Thom Dibdin

Veteran performance poet Jem Rolls says Edinburgh has lost the crown it once held as home to the best performance poetry scene in Europe.

Described by the Scotsman as the ‘the godfather of Scottish performance poetry’, Rolls was speaking ahead of a workshop on his chosen artform he is holding on April 6 at the McDonald Road library.

In terms of performing poetry, Rolls is at the top. He not only wrote the rules for poetry slams most commonly used in Scotland but he has risen to the point where he makes a living from his hour-long, one-person poetry shows. … Continue reading Slam poet slams scene’s “aesthetic regression”

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Wordly wisdom: Ancient and Modern

New dogs, old tricks & March’s spoken word listings

Body-Language-UpcomingDo the old pooches of poetry need to practice new tricks – or are the whelps of spoken word digging up a well-gnawed bone? Resident spoken wordsmith J. A. Sutherland ponders such things – and lists Edinburgh’s spoken word events for March.

I’ll start this month’s entry with a bold statement: Spoken Word is not a brand new phenomenon.

Pre-literate culture used storytelling as a means of communication, mixed with other art-forms, and this tradition continues to inform each renewed interpretation of the practice.

From the Ancient Greeks to the Beat Poets of the fifties; from … Continue reading Wordly wisdom: Ancient and Modern

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Flyte to the finish

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 … Continue reading Flyte to the finish

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Wordly Wisdom for a short month

Spoken Word Made Manifest

On Tuesday 25th, Talking Heids will be a rainbow of words as it marks LGBT History Month

On Tuesday 25th, Talking Heids will be a rainbow of words as it marks LGBT History Month

Resident poet J. A. Sutherland reports back on recent goings-down in the world of Edinburgh’s spoken word events – and keeps us up-to-date with its goings-on in a month short in days, but not in spoken words…

In previous posts I have spoken of poets (Jem Rolls, Anita Govan, and McGuire) who have tried to define spoken word, or performance poetry, with a ‘manifesto’.

I have also said that spoken word, performance poetry, and ‘storytelling’ are manifested in a multitude of forms. There are no rules, no established criteria; no pigeon-holes to perilously place a poet. … Continue reading Wordly Wisdom for a short month

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Spoken word: January listings…

A wise word on coming spoken word events

Performance Poetry Workshop…

Hot of metric foot from pounding that poetry beat, resident poet J.A. Sutherland feels it is wise to keep his powder dry for a strong and erudite post of Wordly Wisdom in February.

After a bumper-week last week, the rest of the month moves into a calmer rhythm. Then again, with the Birthday of The Bard falling on the weekend, there will be plenty of poetry popping up in unexpected places.

So, in the stead of the regular Wordly Wise column, here are selected listings for Edinburgh’s spoken word events up until … Continue reading Spoken word: January listings…

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New Year, new Wordly Wisdom

Spoken Word hits the 2014 ground running

Richard Medrington and Elspeth Murray, appearing at Rally & Broad, Friday 17.

Richard Medrington and Elspeth Murray, appearing at Rally & Broad, Friday 17.

New words and new wisdom from poet J. A. Sutherland with a Wordly Wise column inspired by last week’s Accelerator at the The Canons’ Gait.

If there was a word to describe spoken word, it could be pace. I don’t mean ‘speed’ – although ‘rapid-fire’ defines many a poetry-performance. Pace could mean ‘evenly-spaced’ but again, that doesn’t nail it.

If pace is also ‘racy’, plenty of poets fit that description. As performance poet, Jem Rolls says in Is it just me or is the whole world speeding up?: “Even the gradual has gone off the speedo/even the slow is fast compared to the past”.

The Edinburgh spoken word scene hit the ground running this year, starting with Inky Fingers announcing a regular Open Mic slot (to add to my wrapped-up regulars … Continue reading New Year, new Wordly Wisdom