Review – SPOKEN: A Night of Poetry and Spoken Word

– reviewed by Hayden Westfield-Bell –


Feat. Michael Pedersen | Jenny Lindsay | Colin McGuire | Lach (Steve Rogers)

The venue, the atmosphere …

Tucked away just off from the Water of Leith, Sofi’s Bar is a cosy collection of hard stools and cushy sofas. Candles flicker on tabletops and textiles twitch in the fresh wind that blows in from the open door. The mic is set, amps buzz with anticipation, the stools arranged in solid lines slowly fill with readers and writers. Lach takes centre stage.

Lach: rich in voice and rhyme …

He ambles up and reverbs his way through his first poem. Settings are adjusted, but he’s got a voice that carries and feels more comfortable closer to the bar. He scrolls through his poetry on his phone and picks out a poesy rich in rhythm and rhyme, his voice rich with USA beat culture and references to New York bars and clubs. He stands how he reads; a kind of swagger, kicking in comments about other gigs and how he feels out of place without his guitar (some of his music can be found here). A few non-poetry folk walk out of his set: ‘I’ll teach them to leave’ he says, he flicks wildly through his phone and reads an appropriate poem about a place exploding into action after an unnamed character leaves. He throws his weight behind his poetry, slipping in colloquialisms and adding bass beats. And he’s easy with his humour too, one piece wrestles with a familiar topic in ‘Poster War’, eliciting giggles from an audience well-versed in the papery particulars of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Colin McGuire: an intense, live wire performance …

We pause for pints. The sky darkens a little, then Colin McGuire steps up and launches into an energetic set of Glaswegian incidents, gesturing at the crowd dramatically and pulling at the mic; spitting sex and alcohol across the audience. He’s all voice, and the mic can barely hold him on stage. Twisting, shouting, arms flailing, like electricity’s shifting through his body and lighting up his eyes. He’s a fire of rhyme and rhythm with a great sense of humour. His poetry engages and explores the world of drink and sex, rich with vivid (and disturbing) imagery that thickens in the imagination, testing the boundaries of the audience. He delivers lists of lines that pile onto one another; surreal photos on an unmade bed.

Jenny Lindsay: a dark kind of magic …

A break. The crowd thickens. More candles are lit and the flickering lights behind the mic begin to produce effective light. Jenny Lindsay shuns the stage for a more casual bar-lean, sipping her pint and selecting her poetry. She starts with the dark and cynical and forages through the difficult folds of love and loss. She gestures delicately with her hands, as if plucking the words from the air about her. There’s a round of applause, she flicks through her poems and muses as to whether she has anything positive. She paws the air like a cat, pauses for dramatic effect and brings delicate situations to life with a tilt of the head and a flick of the wrist. She finishes with ‘The Truth’, a touching poem exploring the leftover memories of a lost relationship, moving from socks to Battlestar Galactica and back again, always exploring familiar details, sharpening the magic of a delicate moment, Jenny’s poems feel both intensely personal and intimately familiar; approachable, memorable and heartbreaking.

Michael Pedersen: a man with a mic, a message and a great sense of rhythm …

A last break then Michael Pedersen wanders on stage. He takes the mic (because he likes the sound of his own voice) and launches into ‘Jobseeker’. The pace builds through alliteration and assonance and he keeps hold of a strong rhythm through good use of brief pauses between words. His hand clutches the microphone as he muses on walking into the Job Centre and meeting Neil; ‘thinning silver hair and evocative paunch cast a hostile shadow.’ Michael finds a vivid magic in this most mundane of all environments, describing in detail the psychology of the environment and the defeatist nature of JSA, whilst remaining light and humorous. He gestures, swings the mic about himself and uses the stage confidently, moving swiftly through his set and provoking smiles all round.

SPOKEN was full of talented poets, with real atmosphere, and was the first of (they hope) a number of performance poetry and open mic events at Sofi’s Bar, Leith.

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