Chaired by Luke Wright, Molly Naylor, scriptwriter and poet, and Salena Godden, poet, memoirist and broadcaster, spoke to their crowd with their wittiest spoken word, observational and manifesto in approach. A lovely combination, both are sharp as a knife, with a delivery that affects the audience enough to get them erupting with applause and delight.
Molly Naylor was up first reading from her collection, Badminton, which included a poem about just being average and about that being okay. Having worked as a scriptwriter she has also had her fair share of first-hand experience working with the TV guys in London, well one of her poems entirely pokes fun and satirises those guys. Molly Naylor is the co-writer and creator of Sky One sitcom After Hours and she has also been commissioned by the BBC.
Molly clearly writes poems that speak frankly about learning how to live, her collection is more about celebrating humanity than mocking it. There’s a poem about the guy that pops up every now and then to say “Hi, I love you” which is rather endearing and relative, and she concludes with Rules for Badminton (a metaphor for life); with verse such as “sweat bands are optional, good footwear is not” there’s a hint of that Baz Luhrmann Sunscreen song to it but a wonderful way to round off.
Salena Godden was on next with a storming performance reading from her most recent collection, published by Rough Trade, Pessimism is for Lightweights. Soup, an analogy for diversity, concludes with the line,”and we ignore all women as what do women know about making soup.” Eyebrow raising and provocative, Godden is less Godden and more Goddess as she continues the evening. Troubled Poets, a poem that ridicules the notion that poets are anything other than troubled, “troubled by silence, troubled by violence” which also relates to the modern day,”Stormzy singing about how we forgot about Grenfell.”
Red, however, is the one that gets the most desirable response as a poem that considers female menstruating, “look at me in my red soupy pants…I’m having a really heavy time.” With a superbly provocative delivery that receives a hearty laughter, “the men would all slap me on the back for having a heavy one,” stepping into the shoes of a man, if they were to experience the very same thing. At one point she actually quotes Doris Day in Calamity Jane,
“Anything you can we can do bleeding,”
Pessimism is for Lightweights appeals to me as Godden puts it, “it’s apathy that hurts us all…love will conquer hate,” and this collection seems to surround itself with love.
Concluding with a Jock Scott poem, Stubble, Godden reminds us of our place, yet hints and satirises this patriarchal society, killing two birds gracefully.
And well, these two in this one room were rather wonderful to watch as they dissect the world, as “troublesome poets” engaging with their audience. I, for one, have no qualms about seeing these marvels at work.
For more on the Edinburgh International Book Festival click here.