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!
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!
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.
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).
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.
Posted in Creative Practice, Performance Poetry, Writing
Tagged collaborative poem, collaborative poems, collaborative poetry, collaborative writing, group poems, Loud Poets, Slam poetry, spoken word, team poems
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!
Hi everyone! Today I’m posting in response to a frustrating effect I’ve noticed in the public perception of ‘slam poetry.’ For my research, I subscribe to Google News updates which send me daily emails with links to every media article posted that day containing the words “performance poetry,” “spoken word,” or “slam poetry.” Usually these emails are just event bulletins or interviews with poets; however, sometimes unexpected pieces pop up. This past week, I received notice of at least three articles where journalists were describing Sarah Palin’s endorsement speech for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as “slam poetry”(see video, transcript of the speech; see articles in NY Mag, NY Times, Flavorwire).
Palin’s speech was long and rambling, full of incoherent, disconnected statements, delivered with over-the-top pep, and assumedly it is for those reasons that the sources described it as ‘slam poetry.’ This frustrates me because it indicates a cultural perception that performance poetry is simply passionate babble, lacking artistry or formal constraints. In this post I will briefly explain why this use of the term ‘slam poetry’ to describe Palin’s speech is inaccurate, misinformed, and rather rude. More after the jump!
Hi everyone! I’m so excited to announce that today we’re publicly releasing the new video for my poem “Polos”! The poem is linked at the bottom of this post, but rather than just posting the video up here I thought I’d also share the creative process that went into conceiving and producing this work. It’s the product of a lot of experimentation, inter-medium translation, and collaboration. For the story and the video, read more after the jump!
Posted in Creative Practice, Dance, Performance Poetry
Tagged artistic development, ballet, contemporary dance, creative practice, dance, modern dance, poetry video, Polos, Slam poetry, spoken word, video, videography
Being a performance poet means fantastic live exposure: one can interact with the audience, contextualise poems through between-poem chat, adapt the set for the setting, etc. However, as great as this physical exposure and audience engagement is, performance poetry as a genre also carries with it the drawback that it is ultimately ephemeral. The audience may love your work, but at the end of the night, they have nothing to take home with them: no book, no tangible product to which they can refer later if they want to revisit the poetry. This is a drawback for the poet as well, since by not producing their work through print media they lose out on an important way of making money and marketing themselves. Continue reading