With the launch of his new book and a nation-wide tour underway, it's clear that for Michael Pedersen, the world is his oyster. Last week we sent Chloe Campbell out to Rough Trade to check out his folk-infused Nottingham launch party.
Last Wednesday poet Michael Pedersen and Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison brought their lines and lyrics to Nottingham to mark the launch of Pedersen’s new poetry anthology Oyster. The prize-winning writer’s new collection of poems, which have already received praised from fan Irvine Welsh and Charlotte Church (yes, that Charlotte Church) among others, enjoyed a night out courtesy of their quietly charismatic author. In Oyster, Pedersen’s verses are complemented by Hutchison’s interpretive, illustrative company — a working relationship that was truly brought to life at the exclusive event, which was one of only four in the UK.
Rough Trade, a venue uniquely appropriate for the night’s intimate gathering, mirrored the nuanced dynamics of the evening's act: a scene of uncompromising black walls are punctuated with panels of colourful band posters, and the stark, pared-back space enjoyed careful and artistic illumination, a stage ready for the performers. From the start, Pedersen’s focused performance, simultaneously gentle and intense, was complemented by Hutchison’s warm, melodic presence and lyrical intervention.
The duo thoughtfully welcomed the audience and introduced themselves, immediately setting the tone as conversational, confessional and highly entertaining. Hutchison assigned himself the light, palatable roles of ‘starter’ and ‘dessert’, promising that Pedersen’s presence was the weighty main course, with music first on the menu. With the first song, Frightened Rabbit’s frontman eased any apprehension triggered by Pedersen’s promise of awkwardness, which of course, was inevitable—and expected, at an event which commenced alongside numerous suggestive comments, on the poet’s part, about the eating of the eponymous oysters. Then came the oyster poem, the evening’s debut reading, which plunged the audience into Pedersen’s sensory expression of lustful, invasive and desirous indulgence.
More soft vocals and music mellowed the audience, followed by poetry inspired by Pedersen’s respective exploits during various writing residencies, namely his time in Grez-sur-Loing, France, as a recipient of the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship award. These particular antics inspired a poetry reading which thrust from tender and amorous to lucid and explicit, detailing intensely tangible experiences with ex lovers. Tender, honest and borderline romantic expressions quickly turned into graphic depictions of sexual acts and urges, from the passionately fiery to purely functional.
Fully contrasting Pedersen’s coarseness, one of Hutchison’s succeeding harmonies told a sweet story of Snake, an Ikea draft excluder purchased with a former partner. Scott and Snake make a well-intentioned romantic journey to New York, the latter via Hutchison’s backpack, only to be re-homed to a little girl with two daddies, as a mascot of pride and compassion in a new land. The sweet anecdote was welcomed by a smitten audience, who were also treated to a tale of a highland cow from Pedersen. The reading about said cow disclosed a further tale of residency-related adventures, this time while Pedersen was in Cove, a small village in the Scottish Borders, and woke up each morning to a meet the gaze of his furry neighbour.
From the event’s inception, it was evident to all in attendance that the concept of medium and performance was, and remains, integral to both Pedersen and Hutchison’s creative processes. Talk of Hutchison’s illustrations for Oyster, including the book’s front cover, revealed his past at the illustrious Glasgow School of Art. An ambitious performance aspect is central to Pedersen’s gratification too, it was revealed, as he tells of past instances supporting musicians and feeling inadequate when reading his own work from a page. To remedy this, the poet made sure he knew his material by heart, and the approach clearly paid off, as verses organically spring from Pedersen without prompt or reminder, and are saturated with genuine emotion and authentic, immersive expression. It’s evident that these poems, and their sentiment, are as much a part of the poet as, say, a limb, or his boisterous, curly hair.
Pedersen’s collaborative approach to expression is alluded to further, when he reveals the ethos of another enterprise of his, Neu! Reekie!, which, he explains, combines writing, publishing, music and events—very much in the vain of Oyster’s exclusive literary, lyrical tour.
From the evening’s events it’s clear that Pedersen himself possesses uncompromising confidence in his experiences and interpretations, and he evidently sees art, passion and elegance in the banal and the mundane happenings of day-to-day life. The poems Pedersen recites range in subject, lurching from the romantic, to the absurd, to the everyday, still crackling with the same electricity and regulated enthusiasm.
After welcoming, and enjoying, questions from the audience, a final poem of Pedersen’s Oyster is referenced—an homage to Saturn’s Cassini. The poet, dissatisfied with the conclusion to the planet’s 13-year romance with the orbiting spacecraft, laments its fatal final mission which sees it plummet into Saturn’s atmosphere, in a catastrophic and uncompromising reunion. The evening, however, had a much more satisfying ending, as both performers and audience move to the bar area, for introductions and book signings with the accomplished pair.
Representation is a bit of a buzz-word at the moment, so it's refreshing to see it done right. Nottingham-based poet and event organiser Hayley Green is the spearhead for the Write Pride Festival, a five-day event that celebrates some of Nottingham's best and brightest LGBTQIA creatives. We had a chat with her ahead of the festival to chat about the coming week.
The Nottingham Poetry Festival is well underway this week. Get stuck in...
Dark times are ahead for zine fans. After years of sticking two fingers up at the man, Hand Job zine are shutting down the presses for an indefinite amount of time. But in spite of their planned hiatus, the press decided to go out with a bang: Friday 3 March marked the launch of the Hand Job Zine Anthology. Never one to miss a party, I decided to pop down to see the old lot off. I paid my £3 entry, got my hand stamped, slammed back a tequila shot, and dove into the punky, home-grown fun.