Poetry in the Persian Tent @ St John's Church Hall/Persian Tent
Stephanie Green explains the thinking behind her curatorship of this mini-fest, series of poetry readings
Poetry in the Persian Tent is a series of daily events curated and MCed by Stephanie Green, poet and sometime Skinny theatre critic. Running for five days in the last week of the Fringe, and part of the Festival of Spirituality, it boasts headline turns from Liz Lochhead and Jackie Kay, a daily musician and representatives from both English and Gaelic poetry communities.
"This will be a showcase for some of Scotland's leading Big Names, along with up-and-coming names to watch out for," says Green. Alongside the established poets, Green is enthusiastic about this new generation. "William Letford is launching his first collection with Carcanet at the EIBF – so you can catch him here too; Ryan Van Winkle, our suave American about Town, is well-known for the many readings he hosts, and is the winner of Salt's Crashaw Prize; Jane McKie, winner of the Edwin Morgan prize in 2011 and Helen Mort, the youngest ever Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust."
Ideally situated at the end of Princes Street – the church has been decorated to capture the feel of a Persian tent, and its opulence is matched by the food available at its sister cafe – the events are in aid of the Old MacDonald had a Farm for Africa/Oxfam charity, set up by Liz Lochhead and Jim Carruth.
"At a time when everyone is distracted by the Olympics and here in Edinburgh, by our own Festival, it is easy to forget the problems of the rest of the world," continues Green. "This charity is therefore a wonderful way to help by giving start-up farms to poverty-stricken Africans so that they can become self-sufficient."
Poetry's diversity is on display across all of the dates. "International star John Glenday, short-listed for the prestigious Griffin prize, is a 'tough mystic' as Kathleen Jamie has said, and is witty and fond of riddling word-play," notes Green. "Vicki Feaver has been called 'domestic Gothic'. Her poems are fierce, visceral, often taboo-breaking, and have an enthusiastic fan-base. Then Stewart Conn is a well-kent face: the former Edinburgh Makar, celebrating his 70th year, he is the former Head of BBC Drama in Scotland so, not surprisingly, a great performer. Liz Lochhead, our Makar (National Poet) is, of course, famed and well-loved, for her feisty humour and humanity."
The musicians equally represent the range of Scottish folk forms: "John Sampson, a virtuoso on any kind of wind instrument, has accompanied many poets, including Carol Ann Duffy, and will kick-start the series with Lochhead. Shetland is represented by folk-singer Lise Sinclair, flying down from Fair Isle. Patsy Seddon, will be singing and playing on the clarsarch (Celtic harp)." says Green. This connection between poetry and folk music is most obvious within the Gaelic selections: traditionally, the two arts have shared audiences and themes in the Highlands and Islands.
With the bustle of the Fringe still at full pelt, the Persian tent offers a haven from flyers and star ratings.There's a real Persian Tent cafe next door so you can come early or stay late and sample their delicious mezze: and the shifting line up makes the programme cover many different approaches. As Liz Lochhead says: "Come every day – a fantastic line-up of poets for a fabulous cause."