A less traditional Burns Night

Getting fou and unco happy

Kirstin Innes looks into less traditional ways to express your appreciation of Scotland’s national Bard this Burns Night.

1 Wi’ sangs an’ clatter It’s pure coincidence that Edinburgh’s Big Word performance poetry evening falls on 25 January but when organiser Jenny Lindsay realised the date, she decided to make the most of it.

Contemporary performance poetry, with its flow of freighted, assonated syllables piling up over each other, is witty, spiky and frenetic. There’s little obvious similarity to the couthy recitations of ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That’ and ‘To A Haggis’ which form the backbone of a traditional Burns’ Night celebration, and which Lindsay quickly dismisses. ‘It’s not all older men mumbling into microphones. Popularly, performance poetry has a bad name, and I wonder if it might be because we’re force-fed Burns and Edwin Morgan at school; made to recite them until they stop meaning anything. Certainly, I didn’t realise just how good Burns was until I re-read him as an adult.

‘We’re showcasing a range of poets who all have a contemporary take on what Burns was up to. Our poetry has that same immediate effect as his did at the time. He’s lauded all over the place - face on all the shortbread tins - so I think people forget that he was just very fond of reading his poems in pubs for an appreciative crowd of drunks.’

Although the line up features a mix of spoken word and live music, Lindsay shies away from the suggestion that it has anything in common with a traditional ceilidh. ‘I’d rather call it a lyrical cabaret - there’s definitely a Burns connection to the evening, but not in the traditional sense,’ she says. ‘However, I’ll be reading a poem I was asked to write as an homage to Burns. It’s called ‘Instant Tatties and Irn Bru.’’ The Big Word. City Café, Edinburgh, Thu 25 Jan.

2 O Haggis! The great chieftan of the puddin’ race doesn’t have to be sliced open with a skean dubh and served warm-reekin’. The Baked Potato Shop in Edinburgh will happily heat you up a veggie haggis samosa, Sannino’s in Glasgow have created a neep-rich haggis lasagne, and the Hard Rock Café is offering diners the chance to address their Burns Burger. Of course, you could just pick up a battered haggis at your local chippy with far less palaver. Do remember that the poet himself died of heart disease, though. The Baked Potato Shop, Cockburn Street, Edinburgh. Sannino’s, Bath Street, Glasgow. Hard Rock Café, George Street, Edinburgh.

3 Ae Fond Kiss Burns was responsible for some of the most beautiful, tender love poetry ever written. He was also a notorious womaniser, and depending on which biography you believe, produced anywhere between nine and fourteen children with five different mothers in 20 years. We suspect he may have approved of the speed dating event being held at Grape this month - not only does it allow you to negotiate fifty potential partners in a very short space of time, but all proceeds benefit the NCH Children’s Charity. However, as this is the 21st century, not the 18th, we encourage you to act a bit more responsibly than Ranting Roving Robin. Charity Speed Dating, Grape, Edinburgh, Sat 31 Jan. Sexual health advice available at the Sandyford Clinic, Glasgow (0141 211 8600) and at Crew 2000, Edinburgh (0131 220 3404).

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