LEITH Festival is back after an inexplicable two-year hiatus, and here's CultFusion trotting alongside like the faithful hound it is! Scotland's most misleadingly named poetry night returns to the Persevere bar with a diverse array of poets - Vicki Feaver, Andrew Blair, Carly Brown and Rex Sweeny - plus an accomplished local singer-songwriter in the form of Calum Carlyle, with two or three other musicians chipping in. This year, for the first time, admission is free. Doors open at 6.30pm and it's worth arriving early to make sure of a seat. The event begins at 7.00pm, will have one interval and should end around 9.15pm. The address of the Persevere is 398 Easter Road, Edinburgh EH6 8HT. Here's the lowdown on some of the evening's performers…
VICKI FEAVER is one of the UK's most respected poets. Her reputation rests on four collections, beginning with Close Relatives in 1981 and continuing with The Handless Maiden (1994), The Book of Blood (2006) and I Want! I Want! (2020). Over the years Vicki has won the National Poetry Competition, the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, a Cholmondeley Award and a Hawthornden Fellowship, not forgetting her W H Heinemann award for The Book of Blood, which was also shortlisted for a Costa Award; and both The Book of Blood and I Want! I Want! were shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. Her work has been described as "red in tooth and claw" but "also highly sensual and inviting, with a tactile quality"; Ted Hughes wrote of it as "thin beautifully etched ice over such deep shocking water". She is Emeritus Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester and has lived in Scotland since she retired. Hear her read some of her poetry here - and this archived interview is fascinating.
A Texan who's inhabited Scotland for the past decade, CARLY BROWN won Scotland's National Poetry Slam in 2013 and was subsequently ranked fourth in the world at the World Series of Slam Poetry in Paris. She's since performed at dozens of festivals and other events and published two short collections, Grown Up Poetry Needs to Leave Me Alone and Anastasia, Look in the Mirror (commended for the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award last year). She's now working on a debut full-length poetry collection about cosmic wormholes. "All of my work is infused with warmth and humor and underpinned by the belief that comedy can be a tool for communicating surprising truths and inspiring change." In the midst of all this she collaborated on a best-selling children's picture book and gained a Doctorate of Fine Art at Glasgow. Visit her website.
Photo of Carly Brown by Perry Jonsson
There was a time when ANDREW BLAIR seemed omnipresent on the spoken word scene in Edinburgh (and perhaps also Glasgow). No open mic was complete without him, few live events weren't organised by him, and he became known as "the godfather of Edinburgh Poetry". Those heady years yielded the title of his full-length collection, An Intense Young Man at an Open Mic Event (2017). Andrew has performed on the bill at Flint & Pitch, Sonnet Youth, Loud Poets and goodness knows where else, has developed theatre and poetry shows at a grassroots level, formerly wrote for websites such as Den of Geek and Cultbox and was co-creator and co-host of the podcast Poetry As Fuck. "My work focuses on absurdity and melancholy, on repressed male anger and ego, on inanity and coping mechanisms. Also I am wide about poetry quite a lot." His short collection The R-Pattz Facttz 2020 was published in, er, 2020. Here's a slightly more detailed profile.
Poems by REX SWEENY have appeared in The Dark Horse, Gutter, Poetry Scotland and a range of other periodicals that may or may not have been made up by him in a bid to impress the credulous. Spoken word events including Shore Poets and The Heretics have allowed him to do his stuff without sustaining any obvious reputational damage. His main literary credential is having spent nine months lodging with Boris Pasternak's sister in 1981-82.
Originally from Orkney but now based in Leith, singer-songwriter CALUM CARLYLE has released no fewer than twenty digital albums of his work. "Quirky, prolific, controversial. Calum Carlyle inspires adjectives like no other!" He also hosts an offbeat weekly music programme on Spanish Rock Shot Radio. He's an engaging performer and we look forward to having him with us; meanwhile you can listen to him here, or indeed on YouTube.
All in all, CultFusion #7 is shaping up to be an entertaining and rewarding evening and we hope you'll join us at the Persevere on 16 June to be part of it.
Giant hornet painting & photo of Rex Sweeny by Kriss Robb