‘Read. Rebel. Repeat.’
The theme of Book Week Scotland this year is ‘Rebel’, perfectly captured by this annual poetry slam event. Upon entry to the Netherbow Theatre, an enthusiastic, lively atmosphere greets the audience. The host of the event, Sian Bevan, injects an immediate burst of humour and energy through the theatre, sending waves of crippling laughter throughout the audience for the duration of the evening.
In total, 12 poems are performed: three by 2017’s reigning champion of the event, Katie Ailes, and the remaining by the three poets who battle it out in a bid to win the 2018 title. Katie Ailes’ poetry starts off the evening, as she reads poems centred on the theme of rebellion. Her poetry brings a warm nostalgia over the audience as she describes her rebellious days as an exchange student at the University of Edinburgh in her poem Edinburgh November, taking the audience with her on an adventure through the city’s nights: “stamp[ing] through the Cowgate” and “summit[ing] Calton Hill”.
Ailes prepares the stage for the three battling poets, each bringing an exciting and unique poetic performance to the stage. Three rounds of poetry take place, based on rebel thoughts, rebel people and rebel words. The poems themselves prove immersive and entertaining, and all extremely different. As Tom Pow encourages the audience to ‘woof’ with him through uncontrollable laughter, J.L. Williams empowers her audience through seductive words, and Nadine Aisha Jassat delivers strong political messages which evoke emotion within the audience. The wide range of poetry makes for an entertaining and emotional experience, with laughter being immediately followed by sobriety in the audience.
In the end, Nadine Aisha Jassat is justifiably crowned 2018 Book Week Scotland’s Poetry Slam champion. Through her compelling poetry, she completely immerses the crowd, tackling the political issues of race, gender and identity. Indeed, Jassat proves to be a hugely thought-provoking poet worthy of the thunderous applause she receives.
The Book Week Scotland Poetry Slam could be described as somewhat unconventional, lacking slightly in the euphoria one experiences at a typical poetry slam. This is perhaps due to the nature of the slam – friendly and inclusive, rather than aggressive – creating a welcoming environment for the poets and audience alike, unlike the intimidation which awaits on the typical slam stages of Edinburgh.
Even so, the slam is artistically inspiring, a “question of waiting, of will, and the mystery of a miracle” as Bevan puts it. Poems of unsung heroes, vengeful women and defiant souls provoke rebellious thoughts within the audience, the precise purpose of this slam. Upon leaving the Storytelling Centre, Rebel, Rebel, a book produced by Book Week Scotland, is handed out to the audience, allowing one to go home and become further immersed in the rebellious act of reading – the exact purpose of this year’s Book Week.
Image: Chris ‘Chrisdonia’ Scott.