When joining Gerda Stevenson for a performance of extracts from her poetry book Quines, you might be expecting an afternoon of her simply reading her excellent poetry. In fact, Stevenson weaves together singing, music, history, guest-performance and poetry together into a stellar show.
An excellent and informative taste of her poetry.
We start with acknowledgement of the distant past – Stevenson opening with singing the oldest known gaelic song, and a poem for Nessie. Starting with the mythic and distant origins of Scotland, and move mostly forward though time to living memory.
Stevenson is a absorbing and engaging performer, as we move from the earliest published women’s work to the astronomer who discovered the horsehead nebula. She moves from prelude to material self-assuredly. It was such a treat to hear from an expert on Elizabeth Melville and to hear him and Stevenson perform some of her epic where the character hears the voice of god. Finishing, for us at least, with a poem dedicated to Moira Shearer - comparing her famed dance in the Red Shoes to her Charlestone in blue shoes in The Man Who Loved Redheads, in an uplifting look at the joy, sensuality and control that comes when dancing.
The poems performed are a mix of English and Scots. It is a truly wonderful chance to hear Scots performed. Being English myself who has merely lived in scotland for three years, I followed the Scots poems clearly, but I suspect the nuances of the metaphors went over my head.
Sevenson brings a new take on the older gaelic songs. At points accompanying herself on a Bengali Pump Organ or Tibetan Singing Bowls. This in no way distracts from the power of the texts, in fact, Elizabeth Melville’s Calvinist interpretations of contemporary, (and far too bawdy), songs sound excellent accompanied like this.
Stevenson’s performance is an excellent and informative taste of her poetry, performed in a unique method that challenges the boundaries of spoken word.