Days 13-14: Wrapping Up in Montreal and New York

Events, Poetry


I whirlwind in from the Southwest Ontario Slam Circuit to finish up the tour with two amazing headliners: Words and Music in Montreal and The Poet in New York at Bowery Poetry. It’s been quite a trip and it’s amazing to finish it in grand style — though a little terrifying! Both days, I land in the city, rapidly find my way around, do the gig, head to the spare room I’m staying in, and then wake up to move on to the next city. I know this is totally ordinary for most artforms, but for poetry 6 cities in 6 days feels a bit much. I’m not used to this pace, but I’m excited by it while it’s happening.

Words and Music has happened at the Casa del Popolo for the last 14 years — it’s as old as the venue, as one of its flagship events, every fourth Monday. It’s primarily an anglophone night (Montreal has English and French and mixed spoken word scenes), but showcases a brilliant diversity of acts: my night, alongside me there’s Klyde Broox, a dub poetry master, Colombian-Canadian pianist Isis Giraldo, and English storyteller Gerard Harris, all hosted by event veteran Ian Ferrier. The night is dreamy and hilarious by turn, the crowd blethering away into the evening.

Words and Music feels much more like the sorts of events that are more common in Scotland: showcases majoring in spoken word but that focus on diversity and bring in multiple artforms. I feel more at home here, and all the while I’m there I think how wonderful that is: that in so many cities in the world I can find a familiar sort of event where generous people gather to hear new words and sounds.

Of all the cities I visited, Montreal is the one I’m saddest about not seeing more of properly. I know there’s so much more of the scene to explore there, particularly Throw Poetry at the core of the slam scene. But New York called!


The Bowery Poetry Club is legendary: one of those venues that conjures ideas of magic and anarchy and something important at the heart of art. It’s been through a lot of recent changes, entering into a new venue-sharing agreement with jazz and burlesque joint Duane Park so that both well-known venues could make the rent. So where once there was the sort of dingy wild bar that’s familiar to spoken word goers, now there are decadent white drapes and chandeliers and murals. It’s beautiful — and the delighted audiences are still filling it.

The Poet in New York is the Bowery’s flagship poetry night, a mix of open mic and music and features. It has a flow I’ve never seen anywhere before. Host Nikhil Melnechuk owns the stage, welcoming everyone and governing the flow, calling up open micers, bringing in music when we need perking up, making new and surprising things happens. I don’t know quite when I’ll be doing my set — Nikhil’s told me to be ready and it’ll depend on the flow of the night. I’m neurotic, as always, but I end up loving this: rather than plotting exactly what I’m going to do when, it means I’ve got to pay attention to where the audience is at.

The audience and the poets seem to have come from all over the world. It’s a great spread of ages, origins and styles in the open mic. The music also never stays still: Shawn Randall, a Bowery fixture, is the main act on piano and vocals, bu he keeps bringing in new acts: a beatboxer, a guitarist, a country singer. In my set, we decide to experiment: for my Scots poem about beaches, Honeymoon, Shawn plays rippling arpeggios underneath and the beatboxer conjures the sea. I’ve never enjoyed reading it so much.

Here and in Montreal, after the practice all over the tour, I feel like the Scots is working properly with these audiences: I’ve learned how to familiarise their ears with it, mix up high-speed impact pieces with gentler poems and their translations. I’m so grateful to these audiences for their attention and good will, and for the kind comments I’ve had on Scots: many folks surprised and delighted by it, or sharing family memories, or talking about translating between their own languages. I think it has a rich possible life beyond our own shores.

It’s a grand end to tour, amongst these mirrors and drapes and poets. I couldn’t quite believe where I was, amongst so much poetry history: a place named after the artform, at the heart of a scene, where the form is celebrated and experimented with and made popular and made weird. It just came about through one speculative email, just like the tour started with a single slam, but it’s all come together.

When I landed home, my phone started downloading backed up podcasts, and the first one to appear on my screen was Indiefeed Performance Poetry with Christine O’Keefe Aptowicz’s A Brief History of the Bowery Poetry Club. It was a beautiful message for me: a reminder of where I’d been, where we’re going, and what poetry is for.

Read the rest of the tour blogs:

All I Want For Christmas Is The Downfall Of Globalised Late Capitalism


A badly edited green background, on which stands an elven fist clutching a candy cane as a revolutionary gesture.

An art thing about hope and imagination and rage and silliness and form-filling and occupying the embodied aesthetics of late capitalism as a means of resistance (a series of words which describes most of what I do) for Buzzcut @ Forest Fringe and for you, dear ones, and for you.

Santa is tired of capitalism and is offering to bring about its downfall through the plan of one lucky little child. Join in this very special letter-writing competition and change the world!!


15th Aug 2014: Santa accepting revolutionary letters all day
17th Aug 2014: All revolutionary plans uploaded to Facebook; voting opens
24th Aug 2014: Voting closes; most liked revolutionary plan is identified
1st Oct 2014: Five pound budget has been spent; revolution underway
25th Dec 2014: Downfall of globalised late capitalism achieved
1st Jan 2015: A happy new year will be had by all


1. Please complete the form attached below to the best of your ability. It should take no longer than five minutes. You will be asked to define what you would like to replace globalised late capitalism with, how quickly you want this to happen, what revolutionary tactics you would like to use, and how you will spend the five pound revolutionary budget.

2. Please include contact details. If you include your Facebook name it will be easier for you to find your plan and vote. If you include your email we will notify you of project updates.

3. Submit the form to Santa’s Elf at by midnight on Friday 15th August.

4. All plans will be uploaded by Santa to and shared. We would ask you to help promote any plans, including yours, that you particularly like. Voting will last a week. By the end of the week, the plan with the most likes will be actioned by Santa and his elves.


a) Please do not fill out this form if you do not want to bring about the downfall of globalised late capitalism. Santa only brings presents to good little girls, boys and genderqueers.

b) Santa regrets that he is a culturally specific social construct. Please contact the elves for a version of this form specific to your creed or culture. Alternatively, delete all offensive references and replace them with the solstice-based custom of your choice.


The Fancy Christmas Font Version – a pdf, for printing, filling out by hand and scanning.

The Bland But Readable Font Version – a doc, for filling out on a computer and for readability


August and a Bit


Performances and things I’m doing in Edinburgh’s festival season, plus a little bit more.

23rd July, 6-9pm
Tour de Vers: Cycling Poetry Anthology Launch
The Ventoux, 2 Brougham St, Edinburgh

Now that Tour de France fever has reached the UK, Red Squirrel Press announce the launch of the new poetry anthology Tour de Vers. 19 poets combine to produce a selection of thrilling, gaudy, sweaty, colourful poems inspired by the toughest sporting event of all. The event takes place in Edinburgh’s foremost cycling-themed pub, and is free!

(I’m reading a tiny poem in the shape of the Alpe d’Huez cycling route)

24th July, 8-10pm
Woodland Creatures, 260 Leith Walk, Edinburgh

Diagnosis meets domination and shibari meets psychiatry in a new durational performance by Garth Knight and Harry Giles. Exploring the poetry and horror of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Giles performs oppressive, entangling and repetitive texts while caught in a web of Knight’s devising; words and ropes knot and reknot in a visceral investigation of political madness, social entrapment, weight and weightlessness. Free entry – donations welcomed.
previewing a month of live art and rope:

28th-30th July
Montrose, Arbroath, Dundee

Yestival is a nationwide cultural tour taking place in July created by National Collective, the cultural movement for Scottish independence. It’s big and community-centred and inspiring and argumentative and I’d love to see you there, however you’re voting (or not).

1st August, 1o.30pm-midnight
Late Night Anatomy Fish Fry
Surge Festival, The Arches, Glasgow

A music hall variety show taken in new directions, with risk-taking, breathtaking performances from artists, dancers, music makers and destroyers, puppeteers, film-makers, clowns, poets, mimes, weirdos and burlesques. Acts from around the UK offer their bodies and hearts for your deep-fried enjoyment. Gamblers with perception and reaction will test your taste buds with new physical live-art in a cabaret to excite, terrify, titillate and intrigue.

(I’m hosting and doing a surprise something something.)

2nd August, 2.50-3.40pm
Other Voices: Spoken Word Cabaret
Banshee Labyrinth, Niddry St
, Edinburgh

Other Voices brings you a ★★★★★ (“This is spoken word at its best… Don’t miss this.” – ThreeWeeks) show of open-hearted open mic, feature sets from spoken word stars, and different special guests every day, all with a sumptuous cabaret vibe as part of PBH’s Free Fringe Spoken Word Section, dedicated to the words and voices less heard, hosted by PBH Spoken Word Co-Director Fay Roberts. Nominated for Best Spoken Word Show of the Year 2013-14, you don’t want to miss this “Slick, confident yet intimate” show.

(I’m doing a guest spot with a fab showcase)

3rd and 11th August, 12.20-1.20pm
All Back to Bowie’s
Stand in the Square, St Andrews Square, Edinburgh

A daily hour of gentle thought and hard daydreaming inspired by the Scottish independence referendum, taking place every lunchtime during the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe. Each show will include a round-up of the day’s referendum-related news and debate, some polemic, some music, frank but respectful conversation, and letters from across the globe. Our guests will include some of Scotland’s top writers, musicians, academics, and thinkers. And you. Whatever your views, please join us.

(I’m doing a poem or two and maybe joining in some political wrangling?)

3rd August, 8.00-9.00pm
Blind Tiger @ BARK
Woodland Creatures, 260 Leith Walk, Edinburgh

Join us for a laid back Sunday session and indulge in our bevy of ferocious wordsmiths, performers and musicians. Our artists include:  Hannah Fyfe, Harry Giles, Rebecca Green, Tim Honnef, Rachel McCrum and Lake Montgomery. BARK: Provocative nightly performances set within the sensually immersive rope sculptures of Garth Knight.

5th August, 9-10pm
Chutney Exhibition: Knife Whimsy
George Next Door, 9 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

Chutney Exhibition presents Knife Whimsy: light-hearted apocalypses, the apotheosis of Fred Durst, the eternal battle between man and bus, all culminating in a linguistic battle between Robert Pattinson and Justin Bieber. Spoken word teetering on a knife edge. Whimsy. Wonder. Despair.

(I’m doing a guest spot. God help me.)

6th August, 2.50-3.50pm
Banshee Labyrinth, Niddry St, Edinburgh

Catch the sparkliest, fiercest, loveliest queer spoken word on the 6th, 13th and 20th August, at 14.50 (1hr) at the Banshee Labyrinth. It is (as in says on the tin) free to get in! We’ll be asking for a donation at the end, which will go to costs and paying the artists – but if you’re skint we still want to see you! More to come on the line-up as it’s confirmed, but we have some OUT:SPOKEN favourites already lined up… If YOU would like to join them on that stage, just drop an email to to grab a 5 minute open mic spot – there will only be a couple each day, so get in there asap.

(I’m doing a wee feature set.)

10th August, 1.30pm GMT
CrisisArt Symposium
Villa Godiola, Arezzo

What is CrisisArt? It’s a gathering of performing artists and arts activists in Arezzo, Italy. We come together to perform, create, discuss, plan and above all share our visions of art and the future. Why CrisisArt? There is a new and manifest spirit of resistance that is visible around the world. Everywhere people are searching for, and experimenting with, creative means to assert a new social autonomy, outside the control of financial capital. Never has there been a better time, a more important time, for creative artists to join with social activists to give shape to the emerging social struggles.

(I’m doing a remote presentation about blowing things up.)

14th August, 9.15-10.50pm
National Collective Presents
Storytelling Centre, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Just weeks before Scotland’s independence referendum, “National Collective Presents…” will showcase a range of performers inspired by the question of Scottish independence.  From theatre­makers to troublemakers, poets to polemicists, activists to artists, National Collective will present the myriad of voices that are contributing to the question of how we build a better Scotland in a format designed to actively inform, enthuse and entertain in equal measure. National Collective is dedicated to showcasing voices from beyond the mainstream, alongside well­known artists, writers and thinkers, with quality contributions to the debate. Each night will include personal stories, creative responses, audience participation and a surprise guest.

15th August, 12-4pm and 7-10pm
All I Want For Christmas Is The Downfall of Globalised Late Capitalism
Buzzcut @ Forest Fringe, Out of the Blue, Dalmeny St, Edinburgh

Participants will be guided through a simple one page form which will define their ideal strategy for an anti-capitalist revolution. They will be able to choose between immediate or gradualist, pacifist or militant, as well as many other options, including their own definitions, and a tick-all-that-apply list of tactics. They will also be asked to define a Mission Statement and three Strategic Objectives for the revolution. Finally, they will decide how the artwork’s £5 budget could be used to ensure the success of their revolution, including a breakdown of costs.

The participants’ suggested revolutionary strategies will be posted to a dedicated Facebook page and shared with all. The strategy which receives the most “likes” in that week will be deemed the winner, and so the artist will spend the £5 budget as suggested there. Thus a global revolution will be effected by Christmas Day through democratic choice and on the smallest of possible budgets. A happy new year will be had by all.

16th August, 6.45-7.45pm
Edwin Morgan Poetry Award
Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

Edwin Morgan was Scotland’s greatest poet of the 20th century. At Morgan’s own request, funds from his estate have been put towards a major new prize for poets in Scotland under the age of 30. In today’s event, the poets shortlisted for the first ever award give readings and the inaugural winner is announced. Join judges Stewart Conn and Jen Hadfield for the prize, presented by Jackie Kay, which will help Scotland discover and nurture great poets.

(I’m shortlisted. It’s terrifying. I think we’re all doing a reading? Or maybe just huddling shaking in the corner.)

17th & 19th August
Word Café
Pleasance Bunker One, Edinburgh

(A friendly showcase of some top poetry talent across page and stage. I’m doing a couple of guest spots again.)

17th August
Rally & Broad: Poetry and Politics
Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Rally & Broad is a lyrical cabaret, established in Edinburgh in October 2012 and Glasgow in January 2014. Award-winning poets and performers Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum, will be joined in a political debate in verse with Scots Makar and playwright Liz Lochhead & Kieran Hurley focusing on “The Past”, Harry Giles & Alan Bissett on “The Present – the Referendum” and Rachel Amey & Tracey S Rosenberg “The Future”.

19th August, 1.35-3pm
Scotia Nova
Quaker Meeting House, Edinburgh

Join Tessa Ransford, Colin Donati and others for an afternoon of political poetry. Scotia Nova is a collection of new poetry from a wide range of Scotland’s leading poets addressing the current political and social health of Scotland in an ambitious and inspiring attempt to raise public interest and awareness. Whether Scotland votes for independence or not, Scots are increasingly eager to improve the state of their nation, a sentiment that is clearly shared by the book’s editors, Tessa Ransford, founder and former director of the Scottish Poetry Library and Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Queen Margaret University, and poet Alasdair Findlay (who unfortunately could not attend this event).

(I have some poems in the book, I’ll be doing them and others I think.)

19th August, 10-11pm
Banshee Labyrinth, Edinburgh

You may know what a poetry slam is: a group of poets present their self written texts, round after round. And then the few winners of those rounds compete in a final round. The poet with the highest score, or loudest applause, or largest number of hands raised wins. It’s fun, it’s competitive, it’s entertaining for the audience. But what if the format of the slam was turned on its head? What if the point wasn’t performing the best piece – but the worst. We don’t just mean bad: we mean hilariously terrible. Laugh-out-loud embarrassing. Entertainingly cringe worthy. Poetry so bad it transcends quality… and becomes genius.

(I’ve decided not to do any slams this year, but this, oh yes this.)

And also

Dates and details to be confirmed, but I’ll also be joining in the fun in some form with:

Word Café
poems at the pleasance


And maybe

I really want to meet more poets and performance artists doing good and fun and strange things this summer, so if you’ve got a showcase or a cabaret or artmess or anything and fancy another act, get in touch: