On a cold December night in Edinburgh, the setting of ‘NEHH Presents: Cold Turkey’ provided a welcome contrast to the outside world. The room was warmed by of the heat of a couple of old men dancing to the rhythm of modern poetry, whilst black neon lights cast atmospheric shadows upon the poet.
When I entered the room, Michael Pedersen was performing a poem called “Oyster” from his homonym book. The poem was about cunnilingus, the pleasure and doubt of the experience accentuated by Michael’s words. I went to the event with little previous knowledge of modern English poetry, and what struck me about Michael’s poems was their rhythm and intrinsic violence. The dramatic pauses, and the way the images were delivered one after another, seemed angry. A sentence from his next poem, “Medusa between the animals”, provided a suitable comment on the audience, who seemed unsettled by the animalistic words of this Scottish poet. My senses were divided by Michael’s poetry – he made me simultaneously laugh and shiver at his will.
This was followed by a performance by Dan Willson, the sole member of the band Withered Hand. Though Dan would admittedly not be the best person to cheer up pre-drinks on a Friday Night, he fit perfectly amongst us. His melancholic acoustic songs, mixed with draught in the plastic glasses that filled the hands of the audience, was definitely not a bad combination.
Poet Hollie McNish had the power to instil silence with her words. When she finished each poem, a moment of reflection invaded the audience. Every poem she performed received a unanimous awkward clap as a response, a reminder of the power of her words as we all tried to escape the way that the poem made us feel.
Whilst I’m not completely unacquainted with indie music, I had no prior knowledge of Scott Hutchison. His performance was similar to the other three; it started with an anecdote, a couple of jokes with the audience, and people singing. With Scott, the room seemed to fill. I felt part of a community – we were carried away, involved with the music, singing completely unaware of the other hundred people – like we were alone in the privacy of our bedrooms. It was a moment of pure happiness.
We laughed, we had moments of awkwardness, we were all human together in a room, making each other feel. And now, I am writing this to the backing track of ‘Withered Hand’, with ‘Oyster’ by my side.
NEHH Presents…Cold Turkey took place at Summerhall on 1st December as part of Book Week Scotland.
Image Credit Devian Maside.