On Sunday 7th September I’m skipping out of Scotland. With a wee bit of funding from Creative Scotland, I’m heading to cities in the northeast of North America in a pilgrimage to some of the heartlands of spoken word. I’ll be giving feature sets at some big nights, throwing my hat into the ring for some of the biggest and best slams in the world, interviewing organisers and spoken word artists, having a great time, and trying to bring back ideas and inspiration to our flourishing Scottish scene.
Part of the work I’ve been funded to do is to blog regularly about the experience, finding out how spoken word and performance poetry happen in North America, what we can learn from organisers there, and what’s special about what we do in Scotland. I’m also going to be building touring connections for other poets who are interested in making their way over the pond, and running a workshop when I get back to talk about what I’ve learned.
So for the next month, here’s where you can find me:
Tuesday 9th: Art Bar Poetry Series, Toronto
Wednesday 10th: Nuyorican Wednesday Slam, New York
Friday 12th: Nuyorican Friday Slam / Open House, New York
Monday 15th: Readings at the Common, Toronto
Tuesday 16th: Boneshaker, Toronto
Thursday 18th: Burlington Poetry Slam
Friday 19th: London Poetry Slam
Saturday 20th: Guelph Poetry Slam
Sunday 21st: Words and Music, Montreal
Monday 22nd: The Poet in New York, The Bowery
I’m still open to more gigs — I arrive on Monday 8th, leave on Thursday 25th, and have a bit of travel budget left (I think!) You can read about me here, and get in touch at email@example.com
I’ve had a few opinions about the independence referendum, here and there, you know. But lately, worn out a little bit from the campaigning gig trail, tired a little bit from my own haiverin guff I’ve found myself returning to a quieter place about it all, and looking for some very old advice.
When I was a wee undergraduate I studied the Tao Te Ching, producing a totally over-reaching dissertation called “A Daoist Theory of Political Practice” (yes, really). The book in a few different translations has stuck with me for a good decade now, and I hope it’ll stick with me for longer. I turn to it when I’m looking for advice — sometimes about life, but more often about how to do politics. (There’s a fantastic tradition of anarchist interpretations I’m particularly fond of.) So when trying to figure out what I think about the independence referendum, and in particular what I want out of the politics of country-building, I can’t think of anything better to read.
The Tao Te Ching offers utopian visions of a small, peaceful country; a country at ease with its neighbours; a country where nobody wants for anything, and where nobody strives for destructive riches. It speaks against the rapaciousness of the ruling classes and career politicians (“cry this the darg o reivers / n no the wey”). It explores what happens when small countries come into conflict with big ones. It’s confused about what the real differences between yes and no are, and speaks for a politics that’s less about control and more about transformation (“the warld’s a cog o speerit / n canna be owert”). I think it has a lot to tell us right now.
So here’s my last artistic contribution to the independence referendum debate: seven poems from the Tao Te Ching, versioned into Orkney Scots. I’m working in Orkney Scots partly because a small, quiet, rural language felt right for the project, but mostly just because it pleases me. The booklet includes an English glossary, and the recording above, from All Back to Bowie’s, has me reading English translations.
aald rede for biggin a kintra
Thank you. Good luck. Take care.
A few weeks ago, Santa got in touch with me (I was so wowed!) to ask for help. He’s been getting a bit depressed lately, because he’s become conscious of his essential complicity in appalling structural violence through the institution of Christmas. He asked me if I’d like to come on board as an Anticapitalist Apprentice Elf to help him take Christmas in a new revolutionary, and I was delighted to. Together we concocted a plan: get loads of good little boys, girls and genderqueers to ask for the revolution for Christmas.
On the 15th of August we solicited revolutionary letters to Santa all day at Out of the Blue as part of Buzzcut @ Forest Fringe. With 40 letters received, we were very pleased indeed, and proceeded with the next stage of the plan: a Facebook vote. Unfortunately, Santa’s investors aren’t too happy with his new direction, so we have a pretty limited budget to bring about the revolution. Originally we’d planned just to spend £5 on the highest-voted letter, but I’m pleased to announce that a surprise funding source has enabled us to treat the top five letter-writers to their Christmas wish. These were:
Paul, who wants localised horizontalism, ethical relations with non-humans, and identity fluidity. This will happen accidentally, with a sudden realisation. The revolutionary tactics will be secret societies publishing zen koan communiques, on which the five pound revolutionary budget will be spent.
Megan (11), who wants loads of money, shoes and clothes for everyone. This revolution will happen immediately and dangerously through letters, voting and blowing things up.
Zoë, who wants food for everyone, socialism, and more (and more celebration of) provocative female performance. This is a phased plan achieved through street protest, art and sex. Of the five pound revolutionary budget, £2 will be spent on a public free food project, £1.50 on a socialist project, and £1.50 on a provocative female performer’s kickstarter.
Henry, who wants every cunt to just get on wi each other, everyone to be provided with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming first a thief and then a corpse, and the product of all labour to be the property of all people and individual appropriation to be ended. Also, no cops. This revolutionary should happen ceaselessly, through direct action, armed resistance and poetry. The five pound revolutionary budget will be spent on a book of poetry, a balaclava, and a brick.
& Shite, who wants, in some detail:
- a) Community owed and Locally controlled means for the reproduction of everyday life. Cooperatively run vertical Urban farms, Community Tech Workshops (Bike, Electrical, Woodwork etc), Social Centres, Local Green Energy & Housing Coops.
- b) A three day week & a sky-high pay.
- c) A complete deconstruction of All Nations, Nationalism, Borders & inherited privilege (including & not limited to; Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality, physical ability, Religious Background, & Institutional Attainment)
This revolution will happen gradually until there is mass engagement in a network of locally controlled community spaces exchanging value through local currencies, and making local decisions with direct democracy, followed by an immediate & concerted effort to destroy the shell of the old society by any means. Its main tactics will be street protest, direct action and shoplifting. The five pound revolutionary budget will be spent on self care, because self care is a radical act.
We’d like to take a moment to thank all the kids who wrote letters, even if we can’t afford their presents. They were absolutely brilliant. You too can enjoy all 40 revolutionary Christmas wishes, on Facebook here, or by downloading the complete letters with a pretty Christmas border.
Santa and I are going to be working hard to bring the downfall of globalised late capitalism down these children’s chimneys by Christmas. Our elves will be elving away, spending our £20 budget thusly:
- £5 on distributing revolutionary koan
- £5 on a book of poetry, a balaclava and a brick
- £2 on a free public food project
- £1.50 on a socialist campaign
- £1.50 on a provocative female performers’ kickstarter
- £5 on self-care
We had originally planned to have spent all this by the end of October, but given the expanded budget we’re not planning to have completed all the activities by the end of November. We think the extra time will enhance the revolutionary potential of the work. We’ll be documenting everything thoroughly, and will let you know how the work is going in early December. That way, when the revolution comes on December 25th, you’ll know why.
Lastly, we wanted to share with you think kind words of one very good child, Freddie:
By the way, while some people see you as a symbol of heteronormativity, I’ve always seen you as a sort of genderless mythical being that expresses an asexual form of love and positivity to all humanity, and I really appreciate that.
Amen to that.
Forward the revolution! Ho! Ho! Ho!
Elf Harry xxx
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on Friday 15th August.
4. All plans will be uploaded by Santa to facebook.com/DearAnticapitalistSanta 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
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.
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 email@example.com 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
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
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.)
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
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.)
Dates and details to be confirmed, but I’ll also be joining in the fun in some form with:
poems at the pleasance
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been hitting the indyref campaign trail quite a lot for the last month, and there’s another month and a half ahead. I’ve never been so involved in a ballot-based campaign before: it’s not my natural home. And while I believe that an independent Scotland will win short-term gains and create a better environment for radical social, economic and environmental justice, what I believe in most is using the energy and momentum of the independence campaign to strengthen the wider struggles in Scotland. Here are two pieces I’ve written for National Collective about radical campaigning in Scotland: why we need it, and what you can do.
Scotland is not special. Scotland is not unique. Scottish people are not uniquely disposed to be progressive, welcoming, wealth-redistributing citizens in solidarity. (Nor are Danes, Norwegians or Icelanders, by the way.) Every victory for workers – from minimum wage to the weekend – has been fought for, won, and defended by ongoing struggle. A struggle which has always been threatened, and always will be threatened, by bosses and politicians. We live in a part of the world with a terrifying degree of neoliberal consensus. We shouldn’t be mistaken in thinking that the current Scottish government, and any likely Scottish government in the near future, is anything but neoliberal.
Campaigning can be wonderfully empowering, but also exhausting! There’s a lot of work to be done, and lots of violence to fight against, but we all have capacities and limits. The best thing you can do for any movement – all of these campaigns, and the movement for an independent Scotland – is to look after yourself first, to look after all your friends and comrades second, and only then to start campaigning. That way, you’re less likely to burn out, less likely to make demands on people’s time and energy that they just can’t meet, or more likely to find these extraordinary struggles something that makes your life richer.
I was asked to make a mixtape of video games for someone who doesn’t play video games! This is what I came up with. There’s one non-video game with it. I got really pleased with it, like I used to get delighted making mixtapes of my favourite songs, so I asked if I could share it. Here it is! For you! I liked doing something that has very little to do with my own art for once. I hope you like it.
What’s in this mixtape
- 25 games I love
- Games you shouldn’t need any special gamer skills to play
- (Mostly) games it’s impossible to fail at
- Games from as wide a range of genres as possible, but with no shooters (well, one, sort of) and minimal violence
- Games that feel more familiar to artists and readers and performers than to gamers
- A high proportion of games made by and for women and LGBTQ folk
- Free and cheap DRM-free (freely shareable) games
text adventure / interactive fiction
epic fantasy psychodrama
light or heavy puzzles as you choose
DESTROY ALL MEN
multiplayer story roleplaying with cards
analog dating sim about a collective of militant fembots
for a group, some random play
as long or short as you like
high speed avoidance
headbang flashcore twitchy hexagon music fun
high stress, incremental improvements
very short, lots of replays
jump and climb and find things, gentle and peaceful
no real danger
Tale of Tales
tactile visual aural sexual wonder
it’s about making flowers have really good orgasms
corny but amazing
short plays, lots of replay value
sexy pleasing action
Mumble Indie Bungle
five tiny anti-games
each is different
all are differently sad and desperate.
Save the Date!
recursive visual novel
looks like a dating sim. isn’t. gets meta.
don’t give up after the first go
text adventure / interactive fiction
disturbing magical realism
To build a better mousetrap
semi-abstract economics sim
teaching marxism through frustrating gameplay
short plays, hard game.
beautiful visual storytelling, makes you happy
don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story
adolescent sexuality and teaching
beneath the cute, unsettling
First Draft of the Revolution
Emily Short and Liz Daly
complex non-linear story told through redrafting choices
first person exploration, light puzzles
queer ghost/love story
cheers you right up
sing and hug along
i made this. you play this. we are enemies.
digital scribble notebook satire chaos
i find it really moving but who knows
as short or long as you want
border control sim
(it is riffing on a genre called “time management” a bit)
danger and action and stress
interactive fiction / twine game
non-linear abstract trans confessional horror
Ed Key and David Kanaga
beautiful and calming
as long as you like
Queers in love at the end of the world
interactive fiction / twine game
tiny and gorgeous and uplifting
very short but lots of replays
The Little Girl Nobody Liked
interactive children’s book
little storylets, some sad, some a little less sad
very short with a few replays
The Majesty of Colours
interactive visual story
pixellated existential ocean horror
short with a few replays
extraterrestrial ecology and old school sci fi stories
a little danger and action
A House in California
(it is riffing on an old genre unhelpfully called “adventure game”)
abstract nostalgia and beauty