End of August haiga by Stevie Strang

It's the final day of August so let's see it out with the gorgeous haiga…

* Stevie Strang is a native Californian finally doing
something with her photography and the million or so words that she has
collected on bits of scrap paper ever since she learned how to write
…not including grocery lists.

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Helen Ivory reports on the Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh Festival 21st – 26th August

Until last week, I was pretty much the only person I know who hadn’t been to the Edinburgh Festival, and to prove it, I was billed as a “Virgin” in the Utter! series programmed by Richard Tyrone Jones Ringmaster of Spoken Word. RTJ is only thirty and almost died a couple of months ago from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Despite this, he soldiered on with his month of MC-eeing, and also appeared in his own right in various venues over Edinburgh delivering his intelligent, witty and sometimes surreal poetry.

As an Edinburgh Virgin I wasn’t prepared for the relentless flyering which happens as soon as you get close to the Royal Mile, around where most of the Free Fringe can be found. Artists appearing at the Free Fringe would have spent as much as fifteen hundred pounds on their venues for the month, plus the money they would have need to have forked out on accommodation so it is hardly surprising that the flyering is so intense. And once people come to see your show, there is no guarantee they will throw any money in the bucket on the way out. The incentive for appearing at the Fringe is to get reviews, and thence to get proper paid gigs. There is so much talent touting itself around the streets, and there are so few people who go all the way. We only walked out of one free event half way through – I won’t say what it was, and it did feel awful to walk away, knowing how much time and money goes into it. Imagine having to do the same one hour show once or sometimes twice a day for the whole month, sometimes to less than ten people AND to keep your enthusiasm for your material at the same level as if you were playing to a packed house. Not for the fragile and easily wounded.

One of the best Free Fringe shows I saw was without doubt poet Tim Turnbull’s Tales of Terror. Turnbull is influenced by Musical Hall on which he puts his own dark twist – his previous show was Caligula on Ice. Yorkshire born Turnbull is naturally funny with great comic timing and the audience was in howls of laughter as he half spoke half sang and danced a jaunty number about a man who has life enhancing plastic surgery which has the chorus…

“Knock me down
and strike me dead
who’s that handsome fellow
with the extra head.”

… an ear-worm of a song which is still bouncing around my one head after a week.

We went to a few paid events too, and these were largely high quality shows. The most expensive of these was the £12 a ticket we doled out for Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge which we heard parts of on the radio as we drove up to Edinburgh. The show took us through Borge’s life and his rise to fame which was interesting enough. Unfortunately it appeared we had heard all the funny bits in the 5 minute feature, and a show whose posters promised ‘tear-streamingly funny’, was in fact mildly amusing. 

The funny bits were Victor Borge lines which would have been ground-breaking in his time, unfortunately Hersch who “has performed on every major comedy stage in Britain and abroad” according to his biog, didn’t really compare. There was some very dodgy material about getting the Borge (US/Danish) accent right, in a kind of ‘don’t foreigners sound funny when they are trying to speak English’ way, of which Prince Philip would have been very proud. (Well he is the Duke of Edinburgh …Ed) The audience for this show was in general a lot older than the audience for anything else we went to at Edinburgh (the ticket price, the subject matter?) but nobody was actually laughing their shoes off. In fact there was fairly weak applause at the end too. This piece was commissioned by the BBC and I am pretty sure Hersch didn’t have to pay for his own hotel for the month.

The main thing I took away from the festival was the many varieties of ways of telling a story in a theatrical setting. Whether your stage is a large box you have placed in a cobwebby cellar yourself or whether you have a whole theatre and technical staff to press buttons to make lights and music, the best show is going to be the one with genius at its heart. Spirit, wit, creativity and yes, that elusive X factor.

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Sunil Sandhu has some reasons for staying in

With the bank holiday weekend in the UK fizzling out under a rain cloud, this next piece pretty much sums up every miserable wet-weekend disco we've ever been too…

A reason to stay in

Men glance across the room as they wait at the bar to order a drink
Women dance across the room as they wait for the men to stop and think
Men start to pick their target and the foes that they plan to eventually fight
Women start to pick at their hair as they get ready to invest for the rest of the night
Men have decided: they want the pretty, the cute, the drunk and the easy
Women have decided: they don’t want the petty, the poor, the ill hung or the sleazy
Men start to drink too much; they get aggressive and start a commotion
Women start to drink too much; they get suggestive, and put all the wheels into motion
Men get kicked out, so they’ll fuss and they’ll fight, they’ll leave with disgust and they’ll go for a bite.
Meanwhile, the women end up taking home the guy who said that fighting was petty.
Men wake up the next day with a banging headache and the smell of staleness.
Women wake up next to the sleazy guy with the small dick who was too poor to pay for a taxi last night.

* Sunil Sandhu says…  I have just finished a degree in law but besides that, I have been writing since I was 13 which means that I am nine years in the making!

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Emma Rozanski tosses polkadots over her shoulders


She tosses polka dots over her shoulders, red and white voices giggling to strangers, “yoo-hoo cutie!” One false eyelash ready to pounce, one blue eye covering brown on the lookout. Bright pouty pouty lips pursed in thoughtful sexiness. Lemons are sexy aren't they? With sugar on pancakes. Hair of a tortured age where irons bind beauty too risqué for this world. Those cheeks. Face and derriere. Clothed in pink emphatically they spin tales of desire and promise. Broken and whipped into caramel spires, towers of old and new hold secrets not so far away. That sugar guilt that she knows she ought to feel. Flesh happily bouncing on some man's knee, on some man's…
Into her soft ears now trimmed with fake pearls were whispers and threats with reasons that would be revealed in retrospect. The time has not yet come and her mother dead so when will she know? They look real don't they? Love looks real like those candy people looking down. She has lived for that cake, she has dreamed what she was told to dream. She does not know how to eat it.
The polka dots titter among themselves, their time has come. Cat-calling the best man they want a last minute change in arrangements. Smiling lips, resplendent in pearly pink, heralding a new age. She felt the lines up the back of her legs all these years and remembered that she was told binding is purpose. White stockings with no seams she is released to him. White white white is the time and she says, “White white white I will be for you”. He cuts her a slice and the candy couple are left on the edge of reason. Licking her lips the tint comes off, easily. More easily than she had prepared for.

* Emma Rozanski describes herself as a writer, filmmaker, creative dogsbody and other such delights.

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Three haiku by Richard Stevenson

prairie flood –
your choice of car or truck:
a barrel of pickles

# # # # #

three days of rain –
my wife and I shop for
a water fountain?!

# # # # #

Leddy Headbutter,
Oscar, Charlie Muzzlewhite –
our jazzy blues pets

* Richard Stevenson is a widely-published Canadian poet who lives and teaches in Lethbridge, Alberta. His most recent publications are collections of haiku, senryu, tanka, kyoka, and zappai: The Emerald Hour (Ekstasis Editions, 2008), Tidings of Magpies (Spotted Cow Press, 2008), Windfall Apples (Athabasca UniversityPress, 2010) and a lyric/narrative collection Wiser Pills (Frontenac House, 2008).

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G W Colkitto says no knife is necessary


No knife needed to cut and slash,

or heated iron to burn the flesh,

in memory

’s blast the mind recoiled.
Flayed beneath history

’s lash,
recall loss and failure and fash    

about the past. Life is uncoiled,

shredded, no knife needed.

* G W Colkitto has had short stories in The Ranfurly Review. He has published two poetry anthologies and a poetry pamphlet. He is part of Read Raw, four writers performing regularly in the Glasgow area. www.readrawltd.co.uk

** Fash (Scots) similar to worry/upset

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Abi Wyatt is riding the coat-tails of summer


I heard your voice
as it hitched a ride
on the coat-tails
of summer.
At its slow inflection
a world unfurled,
bobbed like
a painted sail.
I cast off now
in fear of the edge
and in expectation
of New England.
Fathomed or landed
on this squall’s fair side,
a ship may fly
where it falls.

* Abi Wyatt writes for her life near Redruth in Cornwall. Every days represents a small victory.

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