Scottish Poetry News: March 2017

Our poetry columnist highlights a big month for Flint & Pitch, by both hosting their regular Revue and presenting a special performance, Show Me The Money

Feature by Clare Mulley | 03 Mar 2017
  • Bard is a Four-Letter Word

With StAnza Festival currently underway, it’d be easy to assume that little else is going on in the poetry world, but that’s far from the truth. First on the things to see list this month are two fantastic evening events courtesy of Flint & Pitch. Following their sell-out event in February (Luke Wright’s The Toll), the first is a spoken word theatre show, Paula Varjak’s Show Me The Money (10 Mar, Scottish Storytelling Centre), which is advertised as ‘a playful investigation into making art in a time of austerity.’ The piece is a result of investigations undertaken personally over the past year, interviewing ‘professional’ artists about how making art impacts their lives. It explores issues like paying the rent, balancing the boring side of earning a crust with creativity and the ins and outs of public funding.

This sounds like an excellent all-rounder of a show, as it not only provides a sympathetic mirror for so many in the creative industries, but, in terms of potential audiences from other disciplines, will hopefully improve understanding of the hardships which come with life as a professional artist. No matter how much we love what we do, the task of fielding inane questions (‘So why can’t you do this full-time?’) and unsympathetic comments (‘Try working in x, y, z – that’s hard!’) from people who just don’t understand the industry or the urge is a humungous one all in itself, even before you start trying to create original ideas. I can think of several big noises who might benefit from being dragged along.

Secondly, Flint & Pitch are fast approaching their fourth Revue (Fri 24 Mar), and as usual it’s a fruity mix of talent. This month’s sparkling line-up features smooth-voiced poet Ryan Van Winkle, multi-award-winning slammer Sophia Walker, blazing young star Ellen Renton and up-and-coming French-Cameroonian singer songwriter Djana Gabrielle, who will be making her debut in the exciting ‘new voice’ slot. The evening will also showcase the debut album from Urban Farm Hard, Tell Me The Place, with Inge Thomson on ‘everything’ (accordion, sampler, percussion, vocals), Siobhan Wilson (Reveal Records) on guitar and Prophet 12, and Calum McIntyre on drums. 

It’s not all performance on the menu though. For those up for travel, several miles south of the border, a special writing day will also be taking place in Warwick on 11 March with Ann and Peter Sansom of The Poetry Business. These are the editors of The North, whom the Guardian has impressively dubbed ‘the best poetry writers in the world.’ The day includes exercises using existing poems as stimuli, as well as workshopping one of your own pieces. Interested creative writers should e-mail to book a place, or for more details; even if you’re too late to buy tickets, it’s worth at least keeping a look-out for the next workshops in the pipeline. 

New poetry in print

The main find of the month is Take This One To Bed, the newest collection by Antony Dunn (Valley Press), which deals with the various passions and tensions in relations between both individuals and our various selves. While boxing them in such general terms is questionable, particularly as the topics vary so colourfully and a great many collections could adopt the same vague label, the tone of the poems as a whole work better than any thematic label to thread them together.

Dunn’s voice is like a letter – something to be spoken softly to oneself while read. Something which does not whisper or shout, but quietly, firmly states. Although some of the rhyming pieces like Star Slime and Eighteen are a little clunky, the stiller moments portrayed in Torch Song and You, You are wonderful. Spider Hours also offers a great take on a popular myth.

Flint & Pitch Presents Paula Varjack, Scottish Storytelling Centre, 10 Mar, £10 The Revue, Bongo Club, 24 Mar, £6 Take This One to Bed is out now, published by Valley Press, RRP £8.99 The Poetry Business's March Writing Day, 25 Mar