Hello all! I’m delighted to feature another guest post on the website today, this time from the incredibly talented Glasgow-based spoken word artist Shannon MacGregor. Shannon came onto the scene like a thunderbolt in 2015, wowing crowds with her sharply written and dynamically delivered work. She recently represented Team Glasgow at the 2017 UK UniSlam. In addition to being an inspiring poet and performer, Shannon also supports the scene by co-organising Aloud, the poetry open mic at the University of Glasgow.
Here, Shannon shares some insights on her experiences being an artist in the Glasgow spoken word scene. Enjoy!
Photo credit: Perry Jonsson.
Hello all! My apologies that this site has been so quiet over the past couple of months; I’ve been quite busy working on several projects so I haven’t had the time to post as regularly as I’d like. However, more posts on spoken word are coming! I have several drafted plus a couple guest posts lined up for you, so stay tuned . . .
For now, though, I’d like to share with you news of one of the projects that’s been keeping me busy this year. As many of you will know, my MRes research (Univ. Strathclyde, 2014-15) focused on poetry written for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, specifically investigating narratives of national history and identity woven through this body of work. Early in my research, I was introduced to Sarah Paterson, a fellow researcher doing similar work through her PhD at the University of Glasgow. We wanted to connect more researchers, artists, and activists engaged in this field, so we co-organised a conference for Sep. 2015 at the National Library of Scotland entitled ‘Poetic Politics: Culture and the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, One Year On.’ The conference was opened by Scottish culture minister Fiona Hyslop and featured talks and performances from cultural figures including Robert Crawford, Scott Hames, Liz Lochhead, Alan Bissett, and many more.
One of the ideas discussed during the conference was the ephemerality of much of the poetry (indeed all art) composed during/inspired by the referendum campaigns. Much of it was performed a couple times or shared privately but not published in any sustainable, accessible fashion. Sarah and I had discussed how, as researchers, this made our work more challenging as we had to gather material from the individual poets; and also that it was a shame that this work wasn’t more available more widely for folks to read. So, we decided to take a small step towards remedying this issue by co-editing an anthology of contemporary Scottish political poetry.
My co-editor Sarah Paterson and me with our book!
Posted in Scotland
Tagged book, independence referendum, indyref, Luath Press, poetry, politics, publication, publishing, Scotland, Scottish poetry, Scottish politics
Hello everyone! Just a quick post today to share details of some upcoming performances at festivals this August.
This August is the third annual Loud Poets run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where we’re delighted to be returning to the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile. We’ve written an entirely new show for this year, on the theme of “making it loud.” Loud Poets has always performed off-book with a live band, but for this show we’ve really experimented with all the ways we can bring poetry off the page and combine it with other art forms to create a truly multi-medium experience. In addition to poetry and live music, there will be movement, dance, videography, audience interaction, and plenty of surprises. We’re really excited about this show, and can’t wait to share it with everyone.
We’ll be performing Aug 5-14, 16-21, 23-29 at 9pm every night at the Storytelling Centre, with tickets at £10/£8 concession. There are two 2-for-1 tickets nights, on Aug 8 & 9, though these are selling out quickly so I’d recommend booking soon. Tickets and more information here.
Although performing with Loud Poets will be taking up most of my time this August, I’m also delighted to be performing at two other festivals. On August 27 I’ll be performing on the Roar spoken word stage at the Stowed Out festival down in the Borders, alongside a great lineup – more information here. I’ll also be a featured performer at Flint & Pitch’s Unbound showcase at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 28 at 9pm – event page here. If you’re in Scotland, would be great to see you there!
Thanks as always for reading (and for tolerating the shameless self-promotion here…) Hope everyone’s having a wonderful summer! -Katie
Last night I had the pleasure of performing at Vineyard Arts, which is a lovely biweekly arts group taking place in a church space in Partick. That evening—a very rainy one, even for Glasgow—the attendance was fairly low, and the folks who showed up were mostly fellow spoken word artists. I realised that most of the pieces in the spoken word set I’d prepared would be familiar to most of the folks in the room, so I decided to scrap it and instead read from my collection, Homing. It was a surprisingly lovely experience: I almost never read publicly from Homing, since most of the time I’m booked as a spoken word artist and expected to perform off-book.
Th experience of sharing poems from the book reminded me of the experience of putting Homing together last spring—it’s hard to believe it’s been out for nearly a year! The whole process, from the initial idea to drafting to printing to selling the books, was such a whirlwind journey in which I learned a huge deal about the process of funding, compiling, publishing, and marketing a poetry collection. So, here I reflect on that process and on some of the realisations it gave me about my own work and creative practice.
Cover photography & design: Perry Jonsson Art.
Posted in Creative Practice
Tagged collection, pamphlet, performance poetry, poem, poet, poetry, poetry collection, publishing, self-publishing, Slam poetry, 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!
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.
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
Posted in Referendum Research, Scotland, Scottish identity, Scottish independence
Tagged anthology, call for submission, poetry, poetry call for submission, publishing, Scot Lit, Scotland, Scottish culture, Scottish independence referendum, Scottish poetry
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).
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 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.
My last post responded to the way media sources were misconstruing Sarah Palin’s endorsement speech for Donald Trump as “slam poetry.” I gave several reasons why I consider that use of that term to be inaccurate and rather rude, including that the use of ‘slam poetry’ as shorthand for rambling, incoherent utterances misrepresents a field of poetry generally characterised by tight performances and accessibility. One of the primary reasons I was frustrated with the way this term was used, though, is that ‘slam poetry’ is not a valid term, because it cannot accurate describe an artistic genre. In this post I argue that ‘slam poetry’ as a genre in and of itself does not exist, and suggest some other terminology which more accurately reflects the field of contemporary performance poetry. More after the jump!