Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Marvellous Madness Begins

It's August, there's a downpour a day and Edinburgh has brigadooned into the Radio 4 consciousness once again. Must be festival time. Of course, by "festival" I mean not only the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, but the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, the Edinburgh book fringe (which seems to be so unofficial this year that it lacks any separate publicity), the Edinburgh Art Festival and probably several other festivals I've heard nothing about yet.

I long ago abandoned hope of navigating the seven circles of the Fringe programme* and now tend to focus my attention on the Book Festival first, then the International Festival and the Film Festival with glances at Fringe reviews. However, my first taste of Edinburgh's 2007 festival vibe, courtesy of a tip-off from Rob A Mackenzie, was a chunk of Luke Wright's Poetry Party on Saturday night. I won't repeat what I said here and here about performance poetry. Not all the names on the bill were performance poets as such, but that was the overall style. I heard only a small selection of them: Joe Dunthorne, Tim Turnbull, Tim Wells and Martin Newell, as well as Luke Wright, who performed one piece in between each set. Tim T was the best for my money**--he's always entertaining. I'd expected Dunthorne's stuff to be more interesting than it was, but didn't know what to expect from the others.

Still, it was a great opportunity to chat with Rob and catch up with Roddy Lumsden and Andy Jackson, neither of whom I'd seen in ages. And I managed to make it to the pub for one drink with Rob, Roddy, Andy and co. The pub in question being the Meadows Bar***, there were faint shades of the student hours spent drinking with sundry student and grownup poets.

By sober contrast, I dipped into the Book Festival on Sunday morning for a reading by Nick Laird, launching his second collection, On Purpose, and Daljit Nagra. Despite costing £7.00 and starting at 10.15 am, it was as well attended as the poetry party. Nagra read first. Much of the work he read demands a good performance, which he certainly gave, but it also has a much more interesting linguistic texture, signficantly greater depth and a greater awareness of the literary tradition than the animal known as performance poetry. Laird is a more straightforward lyrical, literary poet, a voice emerging from the Northern Irish tradition in the line of Heaney and Muldoon. Some lovely writing. He had a nice line in self-depricating commentary on his own introductions to the poems. I'm looking forward to reading Nagra's and Laird's collections. I have Nagra's Look We Have Coming to Dover! and Laird's To A Fault on hold at the Scottish Poetry Library and bought On Purpose.

*Comedy, Music, Events, Comedy, Theatre, Visual Arts and Comedy.

**Not that any money was involved, as the event was free.
***Which served a watery pint of the usually marvellous Caledonian 80 with no head to speak of.

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