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Book Week Scotland: Poetry Slam 2017

ByAuriol Reddaway

Dec 1, 2017

Our host promised the evening would be “friendly, joyful and whimsical” – and it certainly was. The four poets, Jenny Lindsay, Harry Giles, Andrew Blair and Katie Ailes all performed three poems, one in each round. This could have made for a competitive or even slightly uncomfortable atmosphere, given the very different subject matter of the poets’ work. However, host Sian Bevan from Edinburgh City of Literature helped to keep the tone light, using comedy verging on the bizarre. The poets were competing with the winner being chosen by the audience making “whatever sound the poem evoked” – which mostly consisted of cheering. The volume of the reaction dictated how much confetti would be poured over the poet’s head, and the poet with the most confetti was the winner. The prize? A homemade hanging paper circle adorned with a toy pony in a gimp mask.

Each round had a theme which was loosely adhered to, which invited a direct comparison between the poems. The first round was “a poem that nourishes”. This was closely contested but ultimately won by Ailes, whose poem meandered through themes such as the traditions of baking an apple pie to the difference in how we teach our sons and our daughters to engage with the world. In this round Lindsay also performed a subtle, though if at times slightly confusing, poem comparing women’s bodies to “haunted houses”.

In the second round, “a poem they wanted the world to know”, the striking contrast in the poets’ styles became more apparent. Luckily, Bevan brought a strong cohesion between them with light-hearted introductions and unwavering energy. Blair, performing, a highlight of the night, adopted the role of careers advisor to Robert Pattinson, giving a detailed and hilariously dark vision of Pattinson’s inevitable future as a window shutter designer turned garden centre manager. However, the winner of the round was a poem from Giles about butt plugs, which they performed in a thick Scottish accent much to the amusement of audience and performers alike. However, whilst admittedly very funny, this performance was also slightly reliant on shock factor.

The final round was “a poem to their younger self”. Blair performed another ode to Robert Pattinson, Giles a short poem about a witch’s curse and Lindsay a piece about the role of women, focusing on the arts. My personal favourite was Ailes’ poignant and passionate poem to an unborn future daughter, which earned her joint winner of the round with Blair.

All of the poets received positive reactions from the audience. However, the overall winner of the evening was Katie Ailes, whose black dress was nearly invisible under multicoloured confetti.

While not every poem was to my taste, they were all thought provoking and some were unforgettable. The performers were talented and there was a feeling of community between poets and audience members, making the evening both memorable and enjoyable.


Poetry Slam 2017 took place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Tuesday 28th November.

Book Week Scotland takes place from 27th November-3rd December. Browse events here.

Image Credit Book Week Scotland.

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