Rappers vs Poets

First thing, a little bit of housekeeping – I’ve changed the theme and updated the header image for this blog. The new image is a photo by a gentleman called Graeme Macintosh, of the Botanic Gardens railway station in Kelvinside, Glasgow. I’ve been trying to add a photo credit to the image but haven’t managed it yet – I think I’ll have to add it as text to the image itself. In the meantime – you can find Graeme’s post on the Lost Glasgow Group page on Facebook here. And more on the Botanic Gardens station here and here.

Next, a bit of a whinge.  I’m currently corresponding, in a fairly half-hearted way, with a promoter who’s running a ‘Rappers vs Poets’ show at the Edinburgh Fringe. I’d asked if he had any slots for poets left. He asked for videos of me performing. I sent him links to a couple of videos that I’ve posted on this blog. He responded with, “If you are still interested can you scribble a one-minute thing on one of our themes: poets v MCs; tories v lefties; scotland v england and post a quick phone vid of it. Big ask in little time, but… if you’re up for it…

Big ask – not so much because of the timescales – but because I don’t really understand what the fu*k it is that he’s asking for. How do you write a piece on ‘Rappers vs Poets’? I don’t see how this is a subject for a poem. Ditto ‘tories vs lefties’ and ‘scotland vs england’. I get that there are poems that may appeal more to people of a labour-voting persuasion and poems that might appeal to people who are more inclined to vote Tory – though, I struggle to think of many examples of the latter, unless you want to go back to Kipling, or Tennyson etc. Are there ‘Tory poets’ on the scene? I’ve never come across any – although, all the poets/spoken word artists I know are based in Scotland, so maybe that’s not surprising. Anyway, I sent him a desktop video of a poem with a loose, ‘austerity’ theme, to see what he made of it. He hasn’t been back in touch since.

On a more positive, Edinburgh fringe related topic – you should watch this year’s BBC Social Rappers vs Poets face-off, which you can find on their Facebook page here.  It’s fantastic. All of the poets involved – Iona Lee, Leyla Josephine, Jenny Lindsay, Colin McGuire and Calum Rodger were uniformly excellent. It’s an amazing showcase for the spoken word scene in Scotland and I found it genuinely inspiring.

What I particularly liked was the range of styles – from Iona Lee’s melancholy, magic-realist storytelling – Leyla’s direct self-examination – Jenny’s uniphonic (if that’s the right word) tour-de-force – a poem wrapped around the single vowel sound – ‘I’, that cleverly ends by calling-back to the idea of ‘I’ as well as the sound – Colin’s political barricade storming and Calum’s pre-historical romance, a genesis myth for the idea of love. Geniuses, one and all.

I have to say, if I’d been judging the rounds, the final score would have been a lot less equivocal. Although I like hip-hop as much as the next middle-aged, middle-class, cis-gender, white male – I think the poets on display here were streets ahead of their rapping rivals. Some of it may just have been their experience as performers – but most of it, I think, was down to them having a braver, wider and more imaginative creative vision. Anyway, enough sychophancy. ‘Twas good. Give it a watch.

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