Down in the small basement room of a Mexican restaurant in Edinburgh, real magic is happening. Jess Green is here with the two Mischief Thieves (Scott Cadenhead and Dave Morris: guitar and percussion) as part of PBH’s Free Fringe, and she is simply incredible. Their show, Burning Books, is here as part of a longer UK tour, which ends in November. It comprises an hour of Green’s politically charged poetry against a backdrop of music, and takes as its central themes, books, secondary education, cuts and the Tories.
Green is taking away empty glasses and mopping up water from the floor as the audience arrive: these are presumably some of the many joys of playing a tiny, free venue. The audience is a small, mixed group of people, young and less so, and the atmosphere is relaxed, warm and focussed: good to be part of.
Green is probably best known for her incandescent poem Dear Mr Gove, which is also part of today’s performance. However, seeing Green on YouTube doesn’t prepare you for the full power of her passionate delivery. Her poetry is direct and nicely structured, and well chosen word follows well chosen word, exploding in the air like indoor fireworks. Although some of her themes are very depressing, the inclusive and often humorous way she articulates herself brings the room together: they are problems now shared. The sequence of poems is over all too soon, but the experience of hearing them reverberates in the soul for much, much longer.
Green’s commitment and energy are inspiring to witness. She is a poet, committed to what she believes in, and prepared to speak out. It is a pleasure to hear what she has to say.