Hosted by Kevin Mclean
Music from Jack Hinks
Featuring: Malaika Kegode, Stephen James Smith, Roshni Gallagher and Sofia Siren
Nobility, gentry, and even the rabble: we all share few things, but the spoken word is one of them. Poetry is a language across boundaries – despite its occasional high-brow misconceptions. But now, so ingrained and appreciated all over – April was the month of NaPoWriMo; for the uninitiated National Poetry Writing Month. The challenge? Craft a poem for every day of the month. The contender? Loud Poets’ host extraordinaire – Kevin McLean.
McLean as usual warms the crowd with his regular spirited enthusiasm, this time by demonstrating how he’s worked the system of the NaPoWriMo. Downright
cheating ingeniously, McLean introduces the newcomers in the audience to the performative nature of the show by proffering, what else, a Paper Fortune Teller. It provides the much-desired levity, but never squanders the spirit of the show, the paper fortune teller still having been constructed in a manner to deliver short-form quality poems relating to school days. It’s a further reminder that while an excellent host, McLean has always been a tremendous storytelling and poet – turning a seemingly innocuous fortune teller into a well-structured form of expression, with multiple avenues and poems contained within.
But this soft opener to the Loud Poet’s April performance at their home-from-home at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, represents everything one of these showcases can demonstrate: originality, imagination, out-of-the-box thinking and just the right amount of charm and cheek. Structurally – Loud Poets retains a tried and tested format: a brief welcome and introduction to the said format, followed by a ‘taster’ poem from each of the guest poets, usually followed by a more intensely produced piece of film from the parent organisation Loud Productions; this night featuring a delightfully on-the-nose poke a gym culture, with a tremendously well-edited featurette.
To outrightly form criticism of the show’s style, methodology, and context is a complex notion given the ever-evolving roster of Loud Poets. All we can say is that structurally the production is perfectly balanced. The line-up, save for McLean, changes with each viewing – resulting in a wide variety melting pot of the stagecraft: what never changes is the openness and accessibility of the stagecraft. Loud Poets throws open its arms for performers worldwide and across the medium. And of all the showcasing of talent we’ve covered for the Loud Production’s spoken word event, April’s night of music, poetry and comedy was perhaps the most diverse – expanding beyond delivery, as the subject matter, with a host of pieces ranging from nostalgia to body positivity, to an intensity of passion and intimacy.
At one end of the scale, with a formidable sense of confidence, Sofia Siren’s bold – yet intimately subdued delivery and performance may set some on the backfoot given the context, especially the more heavily eroticised (for some) subject matter such as Shibari. But the truth of the poems goes far deeper than the initial surface view or misconceptions. Similarly manipulating imagery and metaphor, poet and writer Roshni Gallagher personifies their poetic narrative and theming – their reserved, almost quaint, performance style embodies her exploration of stillness and the natural world around us. Tranquil, her poetry often ties the natural landscape into experiences and family, making for a much more reserved presence – a welcome break when sharing the stage with much louder, often energetic performers.
There’s utterly enviable naturalistic energy and personality to Stephen James Smith’s performance pieces. Their opening poem, Dublin, You Are is a beloved poem already, once featuring on the Late, Late, Show in America – but to hear it performed live, with such viscerally intense emotions – positive and negative, is a stark reminder of the archaic beauty in spoken word. It’s a pure medium: a deeply personal one which can connect with as many as it might disorientate. James Smith carries their flair for the nostalgic and evenly paced rhythm through to Poetry Jukebox, where they demonstrate a natural affinity for seamlessly transitioning from melancholy and realistic to a more humorous and authentic rapport with the crowd.
Sharing this back and forth, Malaika Kegode treats their time onstage like a chat with firm friends. It’s touching and humorous and makes the impact of their poetry much more intimate. What comes over immediately is Kegode’s empowerment of the overlooked – without demonising or pandering. It’s remarkably intelligent in construction, an ability to weave both a narrative and flow of emotion without sacrificing their ‘self’ in presentation. It’s uplifting poetry, but sincere, and isn’t intimidated into watering out its intentions.
As these Loud Poets performances and their Slam-fests continue up and down Scotland, building to a grad-finale in Edinburgh later this year, take this opportunity to dive head-first into the world of spoken word. And not just from the comfort of the audience. This is a stupendously welcoming environment for everyone: poets, non-poets, rookies, and tired-eyed veterans. Loud Poets continues to shake up the image of poetry, drawing out the talent and appreciation of this art form, infusing it with gaiety, depth, and heapings of diverse opportunity and talent. They really are quite a special bunch.
Loud Poets was performed at The Scottish Storytelling Centre on April 14th.
Runs for two hours and thirty minutes with one interval. Tickets for their May 12th performance may be obtained here.
Suitable for ages 16+
Photo Credit – Jack Hinks Photography