Loud Poets is an Edinburgh-based spoken word collective that takes a craft honed on open mic nights, agonised over in cherished notebooks, and puts it onstage to equal parts side-splitting, confrontational and poignant effect. A balance is struck between the performance and lyrical aspects of this art where the words themselves and their delivery are similarly weighted.
Sharing their poems this evening are Esme Allan, Iona Lee, Paul Case, and Jack Macmillan. Our compere is Kevin Mclean, who isn’t really required to rile up an already rowdy crowd. Behind him, perched on a stool with an acoustic guitar is the musical addition to the troupe, Jack Hinks. Clad in a roundly ridiculed red turtleneck, he accompanies each of the performers for one reading.
Esme Allan opens the night by declaring she’s in love and goes on to extoll the strong association between memory and poetry. Her first piece is full of evocative images – the unexpected warmth of a freak January morning, coconut oil rubbed into shoulders and two sets of footsteps erased by an encroaching tide. As a history student, Allan deals with her Jamaican ancestry and describes the purchase of a plane ticket to Kingston as an “inaugural stride into me-ness.”
Next up is a student at Glasgow School of Art, Iona Lee, whose first poem problematises the poet’s gaze, aptly filtering all experience through the lens of “material.” She versifies a pregnancy scare, which her poetic superego wants to end up positive for the sake of a good story. Later Lee professes an interest in witchcraft. Like Allan, she takes a historical approach, exploring lifted taboos and residual customs, all with astounding wordplay and wit.
The two male poets of the evening – if they can be called poets – certainly take a markedly different angle when it comes to spoken word, incorporating much greater physicality and drawing techniques from the world of stand-up comedy in their routines. Paul Case’s poetic style might well be described as observational, whereas Jack Macmillan is rather absurdist with topics as diverse as canine resentment, punching velociraptors, and a lengthy monologue lauding the ladder. You laugh, but you’re also left wondering how much literary value such #relatable observations (in the case of Case) and meme-y absurdisms (Jack Macmillan) would have on the page beyond a few Instagram likes.
Before the interval, a short film was screened entitled The Salt Marsh Speaks to the Scientist. This was the highlight of the evening, seeking to bridge the gap between the technical and the creative. Doug Garry worked in collaboration with Dr Sam Illingworth to produce an address to humanity from the perspective of a tidal mudflat. It is a piece astonishing in composition, meditating on the constant flux of nature against the careless caprice of man.
Loud Poets will be hosting a Burns Supper in Paradise Palms on Thursday 24 January, which takes the format of the Scottish tradition of flyting – a competition of elaborate insult hurling.
Image: Loud Poets