The Babble On strand at the Edinburgh International Book Festival brings the best of spoken word to Charlotte Square Gardens during the month of August. This year there are a series of events that pair exciting and original spoken word artists together. Matt Abbott is a poet and performer who is about to release his debut book Two Little Ducks. He is the founder of spoken word record label Nymphs and Thugs and has presented his work at the Edinburgh Fringe. Joelle Taylor is the founder of the youth poetry slam SLAMbassadors and has just released her new collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me on Out-Spoken Press.
The event is introduced by Babble On co-programmer Luke Wright, who describes both the poets work as “fierce, political poetry for the heart”. Matt Abbott is first to perform and proves that Luke’s description is correct. Matt mentions that he was considering voting leave during the Brexit campaign, but changed his mind closer to the vote. His poetry has a distinct honest and passionate edge, where he describes working class life with rich words and evocative language. Matt reads a series of poems which he calls “Kitchen Sink Realism”. These poems are centred around a character named Maria and she could be directly out of a Shelagh Delaney play. Matt goes onto perform a poem entitled Red, White and Blue and highlights the polarising opinions of the United Kingdom flag. He always seems to be searching for a truth with his poems and asks questions of himself. This is again highlighted when Matt reads a selection of poems inspired by his time volunteering at the Calais Jungle; noting that: “Just 22 miles that is all it is”. Sometimes something that feels foreign and abstract can be up close and near, and the poet takes pride in bringing these contradictions to the forefront.
Joelle Taylor appears to be at home in front of a microphone and on a stage. She is an incredible performer of her work and infuses passion and heart into every syllable. As with Matt, she has a strong political voice and presents working class life with a rich warmth and total honesty. This honesty is laid bare when Joelle describes the inspiration for her latest set of poems. She talks about her work with vulnerable women and how this inspired her to write about her own life and her traumatic childhood experiences. Joelle mentions that “for me poetry is about telling the truth”. With the poem Canto she describes sexual abuse and rape in a way that demands attention, but also expresses a total self care and awareness. The audience listen intently and witness an artist fully expressing themselves and using poetry as a means of communication and to open up important dialogues. Joelle ends her performance with the poem Everything You Have Ever Lost. This poem looks at mental health and inspiration and underlines how vital and important spoken word can be. Joelle looks to pass her own experiences and the experiences of others onwards and this is a very powerful thing.