The Short Hard Night of the Soul


Late last year, I sat in the Library Bar in Teviot Row House with some of my fellow-scholars. The conversation turned to slam poetry (the merits of which, it must be noted, were not universally lionised). I mentioned that I had done some slam poetry. I was invited to demonstrate. I am a show-off. I demonstrated.

Later last year, I was at a Soap Box open mic night in the Pleasance Cabaret Bar with the same fellow-scholars. We sat and watched performance poets of variable ability but consistent enthusiasm bounce through five-minute sets. The compère announced that some poets hadn’t made it along, and if anyone wanted to fill a slot at zero notice, they were welcome to drop their name in the hat.

My friends turned to me. You do poems, right? You should put your name in! The ol’ fizz fizzed in my veins. I put my name in. For the next ten minutes I sat fizzing and crackling, delighting in stage nerves, frantically muttering my old poems under my breath in an attempt to remember the words. My name wasn’t drawn. We all agreed that I should definitely sign up for the next one.

Early this year, myself and the F-Ss went to the next one. I hadn’t signed up. At the end of the show, I went and categorically put my name down for the next one, January 30. The theme, I was told, was ‘soul’.

It was an interesting topic to write on; in many ways, I think it’s the opposite of a natural “Aran” topic. I’d like to think that my writing is increasingly celebratory about the heterogeneous, the wonderful imperfect contingency of human interactions, the sheer lovely messiness of all of us. So my poem ended up being exactly that; a rejection of the transcendent/immortal soul in favour of something more mortal and fabulous. I wrote most of it cycling to and from work — an excellent writing-space, especially for the rhythmically dense style I prefer for performance poetry. Although I did find on going over the sections I wrote whilst cycling that some of it was too rhythmic — I had to shift and elide some syllables round to get away from the feeling that the whole thing was written to a drumbeat.

And so, last night – well, you know how this goes. I did me some poem; first the very same one that I’d spouted forth that night in teviot, and then the new one: Souls in Sickness. I wore an adventure hat (pictured above). I went on first (eek!), and either all my friends are liars or it went pretty well. See below for a video of my four minutes thirty. I’ve also uploaded the words to the poems:

Read my first poem: “Disgustingly Sanguine“.

And my second poem, written especially for last night: “Souls in Sickness“.

(The words might differ here and there from the video. The reason for this is simple – it’s because I fudged the line and had to improvise ;))

Hope you enjoy! As ever and always, comments and feedbacks and criticisms and crawling servile sycophancy and solipsistic irrelevances all eagerly welcomed.

2 thoughts on “The Short Hard Night of the Soul

  1. If you feel like, y’know, lending me your vocabulary at any point…

    Absolutely brilliant. If the merits of slam poetry were not universially lionised, they bloody should be now. Keep being awesome, yeah?

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