The Fountain’s Evening of Rebel Poetry will feature some of the finest UK poets – including Michael Pedersen, reading from his recent collection Oyster and other new works.
Ahead of his visit for Paisley Book Festival, Michael shared this blog post with us:
“So there’s poetry and there’s Neu! Reekie! and each has its own twisted orbit but both are very much part of the same constellation.
Poetry for me, fire-started with the Scottish writer Tom Buchan. I plucked his pale yellow slim volume off my mum’s book shelf in the year 2000 — it contained the inscription: Happy Christmas Janis. Love Barbara 1972. I was already a fan of Christmas.
What followed was gas into the Bunsen burner for poetry that was political and profane; poetry peppered with humour and lexical savagery. It catapulted me into me reading aw sorts of texts with fresh eyes (free from my own classroom bias). Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, Tom Leonard amongst them.
I published my first poetry chapbook on (the stridently Scottish sounding) Koo press in 2009. A wee Aberdeenshire press ran by poet Doug Gray — his own chapbook simply called ‘The Drink’. It was both too soon and not soon enough in my eyes.
You get hungry for the first publications, at least I wiz — only so long you can read at hoose parties and live off plaudits from pals. Zine to magazine, journal to chapbook and (oomph) into the so-called first full collection. It’s the paradigm for poetic progression I’d read about / hud seen those more erudite than me trotting off on. When yer writing ardently and restless, this was the way.
Both my collections found a home with Polygon Books and that’s worked well for me. Steadied me. They published Liz Lochhead (our Makar at the time) and some other favourites, with books on their list by Edwin Morgan, Norman MacCaig and Sorley MacLean. Bingo.
My first, Play With Me (2013) was illustrated by Carrie May; and the second Oyster (2017) illustrated by and built into a live show with Scott Hutchison (ma forever favourite). I liked the weird cross-over between the illustrations and the poems and the antagonistic suggestions these made in presenting the work as a live outing.
I’m constantly ruminating how to keep the carousel spinning on this one. I’ve ended up churning out: Five Minute Theatre pieces for National Theatre of Scotland; longer plays for Edinburgh Art Festival (co-written with Alan Bissett); film script with Robert McKillop; and indie pop songs for a band I heled zipped together (Jesus, Baby!). I’m now working towards my first prose book — past knee-deep, now thigh high.
Neu! Reekie! is a dexterous galvaniser fur new ideas — keeps me (all the artist involves) prodding at the ribs of things.
Neu! Reekie! was founded in late 2010, the impregnation stage, with a due date / first show to follow in January 2011.
It started with me and Kevin Williamson, whom I knew as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the late great Rebel Inc. Rebel Inc, now defunct, having started as a magazine, bore the banner ‘Fuck the Mainstream’, became an imprint of Canongate and went on to publish over 50 books. I’d missed aw their raucous live events but caught up with a good heft of the printed material. Them and the louche stories.
Now that we’ve cantered into 2020, Neu! Reekie! are entering our tenth year programming events/festivals/books/’hings. We started as a poetry night punctuated by short films — in particular animations — at the Scottish Book Trust, down Trunk’s Close in Edina.
Neu! Reekie! #1 involved contributions from: Zorras (Sandra Alland and Y Josephine); Carla J Easton; Sacha Kahir; Craig Finnie; me and KW; & more. The poster was black and white and listed names only; (as far as I remember) three went up: Scottish Poetry Library, Elvis Shakespeare (Leith Walk) and The Windsor’s Buffet. Job done, it filled.
Over a year at SBT and we’d grown too big for this box, so evolved into Summerhall in 2012 — itself the new kid on the block — becoming their first regular night.
Rumour has it, the first show out the cage at Summerhall involved us setting-up a semi-legit raffle ticket bar with crates of Stella and boxes of wine from ASDA. You see…it predated the opening of their bars and café. In our defence, there was a veritable ‘raffle of the absurd’ with hand sculpted prizes (sometimes meat) by a pal called Pete.
My mum had worked the door for the first 18-months of the shows and was none too happy about being replaced by the Summerhall box office. The old boy, the wily cad, demanded severance pay. We came to an arrangement.
Moving over to Jim Lambie’s poetry Club in Glasgow was the next tranche of the Neu! Reekie! evolution. This, too, was not yet running as a public venue / was just a clandestine whisper on the lips of those that attended the inaugural event there: a Jim Lambie & Richard Hell (of Voidoid’s fame) exhibition bash.
A little series of shows at The Poetry Club between us and Jim Lambie (& Jason McPhail) saw us unshackle: Young Fathers, Liz Lochhead, Primal Scream, John Giorno and more into this ickle space (Primal Scream hit the small-time The Herald headline read). The venue is worth exploring as much as a sumptuous Jim Lambie installation as anything.
Since then, we’ve unfurled many more show, over 200 in total. These have been all over Scotland (Orkney to Shetland; Thurso to Skye; Ullapool to Hawick; Dingwall to Durness); plus Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Wales, England, Spain, France, New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, Malawi, the United States. Some have been take-overs for national galleries, national museums and major festivals; most have been our own grassroots core shows.
Some of my favourite poets, writers, artists and film-makers we’ve showcased include:
…… (deleted this bit as it was too tricky and I risked rebuked or upset)……..
………We’ve been lucky and had best sellers, cult heroes, chart busters, the fanciest of the fancy prize winners, cutting-edgers, lush pusses all round.
Perhaps more pertinent……some Neu! Reekie! performers who’ve been key in starring our ether / graced our stages, that the world has lost include: Scott Hutchison, Tom Leonard, Alasdair Gray, Ciaran Carson, John Giorno, Jock Scot.
Me and the full steam of Neu! Reekie! were rare and roaring behind the Paisley for City of Culture 2021 bid. In 2017, we curated a behemoth / our first festival for Hull City of Culture — events exploring counter-cultures and sub-cultures. A long weekender, spread across some of Hull’s finest haunts, from: the massive Town Hall to a local cinema; outdoor bandstands to an old fruit packing factory. We blasted oot upon the city the likes of: Charlotte Church, Young Fathers, Stanley Odd, Mark Cousins, Akala, Sabrina Mahfouz, Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey, Hollie McNish, Linton Kwesi Johnson & many mare. In Hull, we met Jean Cameron and whet our appetites for what could be done north of the border. The fuse still fizzes. Having read at Book and Writers Festivals all over the world, it’s tremendous to be part of Paisley’s inaugural and surrounded by such literary bobby-dazzlers. Coruscation awaits.
Here’s a poem:
Eighteen and the c*nt shot
you clean in the coupon.
You lost yer left eye,
it’s glass noo, colour-
matched and still moves
wi the optic nerve but
deid nonetheless — pupil
doesnae dilate, twitches
not a scintilla. 2K compo
in 1973, that’s it, oan yer way.
2K compo put doon on you
and ma’s first flat in Abbey
-hill. A different type a’ justice
wiz employed by your older
brither Harry, a deft boxer,
mair brutish than you, slab-
handed and no so subtle.
Da, you ken ah ken yer
family struggled like nowt
ah’ve known: social services,
collecting sheep shite off
Arthur Seat for coppers
lifted back off ye, deid sister
afore you met yer teens,
five of you, all scattered. Poul,
yer own Danish faither,
was fierce fires, broth of
bile, a pot boiling ower
at the best o’ times; went
blind in his forties, kept yis
crawling roond the council
estates; kept yis, just. Nae
wonner you were so often
warring wi the warl, jumping
doon the throats of shadows.
Aboot that time at Universal
Studios in Florida when I
didnae ’hink to sit oot the 3D
Back to the Future ride
and we laughed kenning
the glasses wouldnae work
on you . . .