• Thu. May 30th, 2024

Poets’ Corner: the best spoken word nights in Edinburgh

ByRabbie Thorne

Nov 12, 2023
The Scott Monument in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has been a hot spot for poetry since Aneirin composed the Y Gododdin in the Dark Ages. Poets plaster the city, from the Scott Monument on Princes Street to plaques on buildings Burns frequented, inscriptions from the likes of Lochhead and MacCaig on the walls of the Scottish Parliament, and the many poets’ busts in Edinburgh Park (including MacGill-Eain, Mitchison, and Morgan).

Yet, even with the rise of Glasgow’s literary scene in the 70s and 80s, poetry isn’t a thing of the past in Edinburgh. For young poets like you and me, it’s simply a question of knowing where to look—and Edinburgh has plenty of treasure troves. Aside from one-off events during Book Week Scotland and the Edinburgh International Book Festival (both worth checking out), as well as those organised by societies at the University of Edinburgh, the city hosts several regular open mic and spoken word nights.

So, for the benefit of all you young poets, here are five you might want to consider if you’re thinking of deep-diving into the world of verse. 

Fill This Space!

@outcroppoetry

Spoon Records, 100 Marchmont Crescent

Third Sunday of the month at 19:00

New on the poetry circuit for 2023 is Outcrop Poetry’s Fill This Space! at Spoon Records (formerly Ilium), a cosy wee record shop and café in the heart of Marchmont. Expect a night of experimental sound, acoustic song writing, and free and formal verse. Tickets are free but require pre booking (it’s a small space!) and performers need to get in touch prior to the event (though there’s a small open mic section at the end of the night). Outcrop also runs an independent poetry publication, published several times a year, so check them out if you think your poems might look good in print.

Sad Song Club

@thesadsongclub

Sketchy Beats Cafe, 208 Great Junction Street

Every second Wednesday at 19:00

+ last Sunday of the month at 13:00 at Slow Progress Records, 53 Blackfriars Street 

Sketchy Beats is a mainstay of the Leith art scene, and The Sad Song Club is its poetic heart. You don’t have to be sad to perform here, though expect a bit of melodrama and musical hijinks from host Dan Collins. It’s a very chilled-out, accessible and intimate environment with artists from across the Edinburgh area. There’s no sign-up required, and events are usually BYOB, so consider it a gaff with talent. A great spot for beginners looking for some real feedback and support from small-time artists, as well as old pros just looking to relax. Venues and dates change, so keep an eye on their Insta!

Loud Poets

@iamloudpro

The Canons’ Gait, 232 Canongate

Second & last Sunday of every month at 19:00 

Slam poetry has never been more popular in the UK poetry scene, and we have the Loud Poets to thank for making it big in Edinburgh. After years of sell-out shows at the Fringe and cross-Scotland tours, the Loud Poets team now run a regular open mic at The Canons’ Gait pub on the Royal Mile. Ages range from 8 to 80, and every event has a different guest performer. Sign-ups are on their Facebook/Instagram, though there’s a random draw on the night for last-minute slots. If you’re interested, Loud Poets also run an online writing club and have a playlist of YouTube tutorials—if not, be sure to catch them at the Fringe next year!

Argonaut Books

@argonautbooks

Argonaut Books, 15–17 Leith Walk 

Spoken word nights used to be a regular feature at this exquisite Leith bookshop, and as of October this year they’re back – we hope for good! Keep an eye on their social media for updates (or just pop into the bookshop—the owner’s lovely), and if you’re lucky enough to make it along, expect a gentle, village-hall style space with plenty of seating and great acoustics (the faery lights were a plus). Feel free to browse the shiny new books between rounds—find a book of poems to take home with you! Sign-ups are via email (check online) and tickets are free. 

Soapbox Open Mic

@soapbox.openmic

Bennet’s Bar, 8 Leven Street

Last Sunday of every month at 19:30

Soapbox is an old Edinburgh Uni favourite that’s gone through many iterations down the years. It’s now a safe space for Edinburgh’s LGBT+ community and a spoken word night specifically for queer performers (though anyone’s welcome to come along and watch). Each night’s a little different and there’s always a theme (see their Instagram), the sign-up sheet being available online. It’s a fun night of poetry and acoustic music, and the hosts really put their heart and soul into it, so why not consider being part of this grassroots collective? The pub’s got a good whisky selection too…  

To find out more about poetry events and communities in Edinburgh and Scotland, visit the Scottish Book Trust at www.scottishbooktrust.com, or have a chat with Edinburgh Uni’s Creative Writing and English Lit Societies. Poetry is for everyone!

The Scott Monument, Edinburgh Scotland” by patrickfranzis is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0