Is This Poetry?

Is this poetry? Yes. Is it impressive? Not really. Andrew Blair and Ross McCleary’s poetry exposé did not possess a refined style of wit nor an inventive touch, flinging together a show of limp aesthetics and clichéd delivery methods. You can be sure that this free event will bring out your inner douchebag. It’ll only cost you a cynical hour recounting Edinburgh’s history through the disingenuous lens of slam poetry.

One reading that spoofs the BBC spearheads the very negative qualities that slam poetry often embellishes.

Ross McCleary is lively and animated when reading aloud. Conversely, Andrew Blair’s passage-reading goes at a trudging pace. This is fine to balance each other’s reading styles when reading their poetry individually, but when the two come together to read poems it creates a schism that feels like Billy Crystal and Eeyore jointly telling a story: one enthusiastic orator, the other strongly melancholic. McCleary is definitely the more engaging of the two and gives the strong impression that he doesn't take himself too seriously. His poems are more on the comic relief side, while Blair is more sardonic in his approach.

At one point McCleary tries to go Dead Poets by standing on his chair and running in between the audience. Far from being original, the stunt does little to amend the content of his work, even when his voice is louder than a megaphone. Repeatedly screaming ‘HE SAYS!’ into the faces of audience members may add some dramatic element to the act but only in some superficial way.

Some readings, however, are commendable. The one that spoofs the BBC, for example, spearheads the very negative qualities that slam poetry often embellishes: an unwarranted sense of self-importance that tries to convince itself that it’s unique and profound. But this merely reflects the very things they are guilty of. Had this been a parody show this would have gone down a treat, but it seems that the two poets are not into satirising this speaking style as much they are admitting to using it.

When they aren't trying to appear enigmatic or political they are actually quite entertaining. They have some amusing quips about Scotland’s capital, referring to Edinburgh as a ‘total Hufflepuff’, a favourite amongst the audience, whilst some of their poems reveal the makings of comedic gold. But this is wasted in playing into tired tropes and used-up reading styles common to slam poetry kinetics, one more focused upon the delivery than the poetic content. 

Some of the more commendable imagery is ruined by a misplaced refrain, or a pause to reflect upon the words expressed. I even began to warm to them towards the end, but they sadly didn’t rebuild my confidence in their act, one which was neither original nor compelling. I suppose they do give you a lesson in Edinburgh’s history though.

Reviews by Stuart Mckenzie

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The Blurb

Step out of the shower. Is this poetry? Leave your front door. Is that poetry? You're in Edinburgh. Are we poetry?

Spoken word exploring Edinburgh and poetry itself, with Andrew Blair and Ross McCleary - PBH Spoken Word 2014 Award Winners.