Vlog with Sam Small: Regional Differences in Spoken Word

Hello everyone! I’m just catching my breath after two whirlwind tours with Loud Poets in the past three weeks, first to the Brighton Fringe, then to the Prague Fringe. Both festivals were fantastic, and I’m so grateful to the team of poets, musicians, and our videographer Perry Jonsson for working so hard to make our shows the best they could be. Now back to research, writing, and preparations for Loud Poets’ month-long run at the Edinburgh Fringe this August!

Rather than a blog post, today I’m sharing a vlog I recorded with the fantastic Glasgow-based poet Sam Small back in February. We chatted about whether or not there are regional differences in spoken word styles across Scotland, including discussing the effects of globalisation and technology on the art form. Thanks to Perry for filming, and to Loud Poets for curating this great vlog series! Please do check out the rest of the videos up on the Loud Poets YouTube channel while you’re there, including many more vlogs plus lots of poetry! Hope you’re well, and thanks for watching!

Advertisements

Tips for Memorising Spoken Word Poems

When I first began watching spoken word, it always seemed incredible to me that poets could memorise entire sets of material and perform them live what seemed like effortlessly (same goes for actors and musicians). I wondered how they held it all in their heads, and how they could still seem like they were telling a story for the first time even though they knew it word for word! Now that I’ve been performing poetry for about two years, I generally perform most of my material off-book. When I first started, it was pretty intimidating (and I still get very angry butterflies in my stomach every time I perform a new piece off-book the first time), but thanks to advice from other performers and techniques I developed in my own practice, it’s gotten much easier to learn and perform new material. So, here I’d like to share some of the memorisation and performance techniques that have helped me along the way, in case they’re useful for other folks.  More after the jump!

Continue reading

Comparing the U.S. & U.K. Spoken Word Scenes

Hello folks! So in late March/early April three of the four Loud Poets organisers went to the U.S., myself included, and participated in the spoken word scene there. I was back on the East Coast for a visit home, during which I took part in two poetry events and taught two spoken word workshops on my undergraduate university campus. Doug Garry and Catherine Wilson were two members of the University of Edinburgh team that won the U.K. UniSlam this January and earned a place at the annual CUPSI competition in Austin, TX. Team Edinburgh (which in addition to Doug and Catherine included Rachel Rankin, Lewis Brown, Jyothis Padmanabhan, and coach Toby Campion) went to CUPSI in early April to compete, and ended up winning the Spirit of the Slam Award! (And while we were off galavanting, Kevin Mclean was holding down the fort in Scotland running LP solo – thanks Kev!).

The first slam took place in the U.S. in 1984, and while of course the format has spread worldwide since, arguably the U.S. has the most developed national infrastructure for spoken word in the world: there’s a vast network of regional slams all funnelling into the annual National Poetry Slam. Funnily, though, I didn’t actually start performing spoken word until after I moved to Scotland in 2012. Now that I’m a full-time spoken word researcher, I was very interested to see how the scene in the U.S. compared with the scene I’m familiar with in Scotland. This post outlines some of the similarities and differences I perceived between those environments, based on my experiences, and includes an interview I conducted with Catherine about her observations at CUPSI. I should note that this in no way constitutes a scientific study: I’m only writing from my own very limited experience of the U.S. scene as I saw it through two events on the East Coast, and second-hand through Catherine’s comments. For a more comprehensive account, I would recommend reading Helen Gregory’s 2008 doctoral dissertation “Texts in Performance: Identity, Interaction and Influence in U.K. and U.S. Poetry Slam Discourses,” which is freely available online here.

Continue reading

Guest Post: Freddie Alexander on Crowdfunding

Hello all! This week I’m delighted to feature a guest piece by my dear friend Freddie Alexander on this site. I met Freddie the first time I moved to Edinburgh, in 2012, and was blown away by his tight writing and his energetic, intense performance style. Freddie currently organises the monthly Edinburgh Open Mic Inky Fingers, and has previously been an organiser for the University of Edinburgh’s Soapbox and the 2014 National University Poetry Slam. He has been a live performer at several nights in Edinburgh, and will be featured in the Loud Poets 2016 Prague Fringe Festival tour.

Photo credit: Perry Jonsson

Photo credit: Perry Jonsson

Previously on this site I’ve shared my own experiences with crowdfunding and offered some tips for artists who are considering crowdfunding projects. However, I’ve never posted on the controversy that surrounds crowdfunding in the arts—and boy is it a big one. The concept of asking for money for art (or to support an art-making life) has ignited massive debates particularly in the past five or ten years. The publication of texts like Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking (which I highly recommend) advocating crowdfunding, and the production of massive-scale projects such as Zach Braff’s film “Wish I Was Here” have brought attention to the use of this tool by major artists. In his post below, Freddie teases out some of the controversies associated with crowdfunding, offering a balanced consideration of crowdfunding’s potential benefits and pitfalls. This can be a tricky subject to navigate, and I admire the thought and attention Freddie brings to it. Hope you enjoy! – K  Continue reading

Poetic Politics: A Selection of Contemporary Scottish Political Poetry

Hello, everyone! I’m very excited to finally share a project I’ve been developing for a while. Last year, Sarah Hamlin and I co-organised a conference called Poetic Politics: Culture and the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, One Year On which took place at the National Library of Scotland in September 2015. The conference focused on the cultural legacy of the referendum and featured artists, politicians, and academics from across Scotland, including former Makar Liz Lochhead, Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop, and poet and scholar Robert Crawford. One of the themes discussed at the conference which struck me the most (discussed articulately by National Library of Scotland Referendum Curator Amy Todman) was the ephemerality of many of these cultural responses, and the difficulty of collecting and archiving this work. So many poems were shared live at rallies, or posted on private social media pages, but never published in any sustainable or public way.

So, in an attempt to bring more of this fantastic work to light, Sarah and myself are publishing an anthology! We’re undertaking this project in partnership with Luath Press, and will be working with a larger sub-editorial team of researchers from a variety of fields (English Lit, Scot Lit, Politics, History, etc.) to bring a wealth of perspectives to the table when combing through submissions.

If you have written any poetry engaging with Scottish political issues, we would love to read your work! The call for submissions is on our website; submissions are due May 15. Poems need not respond to the Scottish constitutional question but may address a wide range of political issues. We welcome work in any language, although translations are required in English, Scots, or Scots Gaelic for any poems not in those languages. Although the anthology will be a physical, print-based book, we also welcome submissions of performance-based poetry (in video or audio format) for consideration for publication on our website.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! -Katie

Best Scottish Poems of 2015: A Response

Update: there’s a great discussion going around this post where I linked it on my Facebook artist page – check it out here and please do join in! -K

 

Yesterday the Scottish Poetry Library released its annual list of the Best Scottish Poems of 2015, a selection curated this year by novelist and poet Ken MacLeod. It is a fine list containing a variety of excellent pieces, and my hearty congratulations go out to each poet named there. In no way in what follows do I mean to question the merit of these excellent poems, or MacLeod’s judgment in choosing them. However, upon reading through the selections this year I was disappointed to see that not a single performance-based poem was selected, and reading MacLeod’s essay accompanying his selections it became clear that only text-based, print-published poems were considered in the pool for selection. This frustrated me because I feel that this selection method passes over the rich offerings in performance-based poetry produced over the last year in Scotland, and reflects a blind spot towards one of Scotland’s richest literary traditions. In this post I will address why this is frustrating to me and encourage that the pool might be widened in future years.

 

A wee disclaimer: I’m writing this with the utmost love for the SPL. It’s my favourite haven in Edinburgh and I think the folks there do wonderful work encouraging and supporting poets and lovers of poetry. I also think the SPL usually works very hard to publicise and support all sorts of poetry across Scotland, so this seems more a rare instance of oversight for them than symptomatic of bad programming (more on all the great work they do later).

Continue reading

New poetry video: “Dear”

Hi, everyone! A bit of a more personal post today. This year Loud Poets is working with the great folks at Fathers Network Scotland to make poetry about dads and widen the conversation about contemporary fatherhood. In January I filmed a poetry video and interview with them about my experience of being a donor-conceived child. I’ve performed this piece quite a lot to live audiences, but I’ve been hesitant in the past to put it online, because it’s really important to me that I not invade the privacy of my family; it’s one thing to be a confessional artist who’s comfortable sharing my personal life with strangers, but I never want that sharing to backfire and to hurt those I love. (I’ve written about the strange and shifting boundaries of being a confessional artist in the digital age here and here).

But—with my family’s blessing—today I’m sharing that poem and interview. One of the reasons I’m putting it online is to celebrate my father, in all his goofy, stubborn glory. Dad, I love you lots; thanks for being gracious and allowing me to share our story.

Another reason I’m sharing this is because we so rarely talk about donor conception, or other kinds of assisted fertility, other than in awkward comedies. And it is funny, in many ways; I don’t take the circumstances of my birth too seriously in part because they are a bit ridiculous. But for many donor-conceived kids, the circumstances of their conception DO matter, massively, and these kids don’t really have platforms through which to talk about it. The huge diversity of ways people are made and shaped nowadays is, I think, something that deserves a little more visibility, and a lot more acceptance.

Thank you so much to the Fathers Network for making this video, and for all the important work you do to support gender equality starting in the family. Also thanks to the Scottish Poetry Library for letting us film in your beautiful space. To learn more about donor conception, check out the resources provided by the Donor Conception Network. Hope you enjoy the video, and have a great weekend!

StAnza 2016: Reflections

I was delighted to spend this past weekend performing and volunteering at the wonderful international festival for poetry in St. Andrews, StAnza. It was my second time attending the festival, and I had an incredible weekend of hearing/watching/reading/making/performing poetry, chatting with other poets and organisers, and a huge amount of stimulus and inspiration. My head is buzzing with ideas that need out! So here I’ll share some of my reflections from the festival. There are lots of other folks blogging about their experiences as well – check out Carly Brown’s posts as the StAnza in-house blogger here and Dave Coates’ reviews on his (awesome) website, here. You can also search the #StAnza16 Twitter hashtag or check out the @StAnzaPoetry Twitter feed to see the live-tweeting from the weekend.

Kevin and me after our Poetry Cafe show with our friend Tracey Rosenberg, who's in charge of the bookstalls at the festival.

Kevin Mclean and me after our Poetry Cafe show with our friend Tracey Rosenberg, who’s in charge of the bookstalls at the festival.

The packed house at Five O'Clock Verse on Friday.

The packed house at Five O’Clock Verse on Friday.

Continue reading

Being an International Student in Scotland

Hi folks! Today I’m posting something different. I was asked recently by the UK-US Fulbright Commission to speak at a conference for Holyrood Events in Edinburgh entitled International Students: Creating a Home Away from Home. They wanted to hear the perspective of an international student in Scotland on the joys and challenges of studying here and the benefits international students bring to Scotland in addition to their economic value. I wrote the following talk for them and delivered it at the conference this morning (Feb 24, 2016). The conference was fantastic: it was chaired by Henry McLeish, the second First Minister of Scotland, and opened by Humza Yousaf, MSP, who spoke eloquently on the need to bring back the post-study work visa. It was incredibly empowering to hear government and institutional officials discussing immigration in positive terms and advocating easing the restrictions which the U.K. Home Office is currently ramping up. So often as international students I think we can feel isolated and powerless, so it was good to hear that on the issue of immigration, Scotland remains internationalist and that there is universal cross-party consent at Holyrood for facilitating international students’ journeys here and their ability to stay following their studies.

My talk is below. I would welcome any comments you have on it, especially from other international students perhaps facing similar challenges. Thanks, as always, for reading!

 

Continue reading

Writing Collaborative Performance Poems

One of my hopes for the new year was to try out new ways of writing and performing, and the start of 2016 has happily involved just that: I’ve been composing and performing lots of collaborative poems! Before this year I’d never written collaboratively before. Writing poetry had always been an intensely solitary event for me, involving plenty of quiet and months over which to edit, but never other people, at least not until I had a draft I was happy enough with to show friends. Writing team poems doesn’t allow for that kind of solitary reflection or leisurely time frame: it means composing, editing, and rehearsing in real time with a group of other poets who may have radically different composition techniques from your own. For me it’s been a rewarding challenge and has yielded some of the most exciting work I’ve done in a while. Here I discuss some of the unique challenges and joys of collaborative writing I’ve discovered, as well as some tips I’ve found for working well in a group and creating innovative work.

Continue reading