The Rainbow Chasing Hippo & I

Posted by in July's Magazine

In the left hand is a pint but the right is free and he makes an arc with that arm to show something he wishes us to identify. A rainbow! After several more bouts of audience participation he conjures up the image of a rainbow reflected in a puddle in which a hippopotamus is dancing. Cue smiles all round. Welcome to the backroom of the Persevere pub and 10Red, a monthly poetry powwow overseen by Kevin Cadwallender, wearer of a woollen jumper of a June evening and a man David Bowie once instructed to fetch a glass of water. Ill-advised.

The capital’s spoken word scene is rosy of cheek and catholic of taste, with nights such as Blind Poetics, Inky Fingers, Neu!Reekie!, Rally & Broad and Shore Poets, but 10Red is the most egalitarian. Ten readers do 10 minutes, be you a first timer or serial performer, with no big-up introductions, but there is a raffle – with books, a kettle and Curly Wurlies to be won.


I’m doing a turn tonight and I sit nervously during the seven speakers before me, tuned in but semi-detached. That is until one guy gets up to sing and strum through three tunes. Then I turn into the little book of calm. I know my lines, it’s all that rehearsing in the shower, and I remind myself that today would have been Allen Ginsberg’s 89th birthday. This is going to be OK.

Stilts during coitus
Alec from Blind Poetics is next on and furiously funny, recalling his time as an altar boy and an episode involving puke and profanity that ended in his expulsion. His MC-ing experience is evident. He connects. An American-Iranian reads poems about her memories of Tehran. Another young woman versifies about someone feeling like an apple core or being upside down on stilts during coitus. Only she says “being fucked”. My nerves return. And we don’t win anything in the raffle, though Kevin chucks us a compensatory Curly Wurly.

Then he says my name. Agh. I’m up. An opening comment about the host’s knitwear and I reference the birthday boy and how I’d considered paying tribute by taking off all my clothes and reciting Howl. In Scots. Polite tittering. I suggest Ginsberg would have approved of the title of the first piece: My Typewriter Ejaculates. Someone ooh-ers and it might be Kevin. Ten minutes scoot by with a few pauses but no brain freeze and no forgotten words. There is a brief interaction with a pished guy concerning Thomas Pikety but I handle it. I include two emotionally heavy poems I haven’t warned my Missus about, one being about our middle child’s liver failure when he was just weeks old. She’s close to bubbling she tells me later. I even sing a line, one from The Hippy Hippy Shake, realising afterwards that I’ve got the lyrics wrong – shimmy shimmy when it should be hippy hippy – but the melody is right. Tom might not have spun his chair around but Rita or Ricky would have hit that button.

The chap on after me is doing one-liners and they’re woeful, as if written by a small child loving the idea of jokes but yet to learn the principles. He keeps at it with a conviction as absurd as it is impressive. I salute you, Sir. Anyone who gets up to do a spot deserves respect and he’s seeing his routine through unfazed by the groans and theatrical laughter. He too has an exchange with the pished guy but plays it up and responds with the worst/best gag of the lot – something about walls having ears, this being an ear museum. He expresses self-doubt about that one, his single moment of vulnerability. I chortle and down a pint of Guinness, one I’d been denying myself for the last hour and a half.

Up last is a poet called Nico. He spins on-the-road stories and does three long and loud poems that do little for me despite my best efforts and a heightened level of generosity. I’m channelling Peggy Guggenheim. The highlight is a piece about turning into his Granddad. You can’t help but like him. Puppyish in his energy and music hall with his camp, he resembles a mini Jack Black and must know as much because he dresses accordingly.

Five star review
The Missus hands me a five star review at the end and while she’s hardly a disinterested party neither is she one to hurl around the superlatives. I hear compliments from complete strangers and accept them with grace rather than bashfulness. If Mark Twain was correct in his assessment, these effusions should sustain me for the next six months. I shake hands with a now jumper-less Mr Cadwallender, talk football with the blokes from Blind Poetics and waft out of the pub on my own personal cloud. No doubt my ego will return to its regulation size at some point but I remain a-buzz as I write this sentence. And the next one. The rainbow-chasing hippo is still dancing in his puddle.

Facebook: Tenred

NOTE: For Nico read Miko

2 responses to “The Rainbow Chasing Hippo & I”

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  2. There is a brief interaction with a pished guy concerning Thomas Pikety but I handle it. I include two emotionally heavy poems I haven’t warned my Missus about, one being about our middle child’s liver failure when he was just weeks old.

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