POETRY is an all-encompassing behemoth, isn’t it?

It can be and is so much.

It is beautiful, charming, and disarming. It is sweet, sinister, and unashamedly true, capable of changing a point of view. It is anything we need or wish it to be.

However, the final verdict from a Dunfermline pub’s retiree-strong thinktank is unanimous. Believe me, they did not need a list of options when asked for a one-word summarisation.

With departures from discussion only to glug their Belhaven Bests, the deliberations of this makeshift jury were intense and overwhelmingly emphatic.

Well, as emphatic and intense as they can be within a 10-second window to very kindly humour me, anyway. Confident in their findings, the jurors turn their backs to the table in response to a Gary Neville yelp on the big screen behind them.

John, the hastily selected and rather reluctant ‘foreman’ in this anecdote, curses the missed chance from the gangly striker before stating, unequivocally: “Poetry is a lot of s****, mate.”

Listening and poetry were both on the receiving end of a beating as the heads swivelled back to chip in some other more-than-one-word additions to John’s succinct affirmation.

“A lot of pish” was another offering which rather shamelessly built on John’s work, whilst the quietest man at the table simply shook his head, a silent damnation.

Fair enough though, right? These men, of senior status, will have undoubtedly endured the most mundane poems in their youth creating a lasting memory they would wilfully erase.

Those memories do remain, though, and those lived experiences can be passed down and told to fresh ears on request, or simply voluntarily. The ‘poetry isn’t cool’ stigma is transferred, and the perception of what poetry is, who it is for and why it is written is decided before the next generation conducts their own examinations.

In his own words, Kevin P. Gilday is a “multidisciplinary artist working in poetry, theatre, music and all the weird gaps in-between”, and he intimately knows “the hard sell” that is introducing and selling poetry to the masses.

Around this time last year, he was performing with poet pals at Fire Station Creative as part of Outwith, and he’s back again for the same festival tomorrow (Thursday) at Café Wynd.

Clutching works from his books and back catalogue, he will deliver a spoken word performance before opening the floor to questions from aspiring poets and the simply curious.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Press ahead of the show, the notion of poetry is dissected and Gilday drolly waxes lyrical over the misunderstood platform that he claims is the “perfect art form for taking the piss”, as proven in his pieces such as: The Old Men in Wetherspoons Are Angry About The Politics; Mediocre White Man Blues; How To Spot A Tory; and In The Future Everyone Will Be Cancelled For 15 Minutes.

“I love making people laugh in a room,” he says.

“It is such a nice, communal activity to all relate to something and to have a laugh about it. A big part of my practice is to make stuff that is funny and relatable.

"Weirdly, that’s what makes me outside that dominated paradigm of what poetry is.

“The minute you start entertaining or being funny, people are like, ‘Well, that’s not real poetry’. It’s as if they are saying that it isn’t credible work, as if to say that because it’s funny it cannot also be well-written. That’s what you are fighting against.

“As you say, everyone was made to read the most boring s*** at school. The worst stuff.

“The minute you say ‘poetry’ to someone, it’s as if they have PTSD from these close readings of the most boring poems.

“You do have to sell it as something else. That’s when ‘spoken word’ comes in, because it feels like it’s slightly different; even though it’s just exactly the same thing. It’s just that it’s written to be performed rather than read.

“I use ‘spoken word’ more because ‘poetry’ does feel like it comes with a stigma. That word can be a barrier to them experiencing it.

“It is a hard sell. I think that’s why I’ve always combined this with other things. I love doing a straight-up spoken word set and getting people on board, but people almost have to know what it is to be there in the first place.

"Whereas I love booking a variety night which has music, some comedy, and a bit of spoken word; it’s almost like you’re sneaking it in there between the stuff they came for. You hit them with it unexpectedly.

“I always say this, but people love it when they hear it. They just need to hear it, but it’s so hard to open the conditions for that to happen in the first place.”

Gilday, from Glasgow, used to work in call centres and was “bored out of my f****** nut” in the process before embarking on a career that can boast tours around the world, with performances in Hollywood and Glastonbury to fondly recall.

The passion for what he does is refreshingly abundant in his tone, with a “skeleton” of a poem written daily.

He claims most of it is “terrible, unpublishable and unreadable”, but the editing process is where he finds great satisfaction, as well as reaching out to local youth groups and schools to spark an interest in the art he hopes never becomes lost.

“When the likes of you and I left school, we had this idea of poetry being this set thing that we hated,” he stated.

“I’m always looking to transfer some of my passion to anyone who’s listening. I need them to know that spoken word and poetry is for them if they want it. There’s no real barrier to it.

“What makes spoken word and poetry so fantastic is that even if I wanted to write a song, I’d still have to learn an instrument, and that takes time to get decent. Spoken word doesn’t require a purchase!

“There is no barrier to you having a thought or feeling and then being able to express that thought or feeling.

“I try to impress that on any audience; you can have a go at this and there’s literally nothing stopping you. You don’t have to share it, either. You can write it just for you.”

Gilday has, however, been published widely since first dipping his toes in the water and whilst the benefits of publication cannot be ignored or understated, it is not what motivates him.

When asked what it is that poetry gives him, he pauses.

“I think it gives me a voice that I maybe didn’t have at any other point in my life,” he posits after momentary reflection.

“I think we have jobs in organisations, and we feel our voice is lost in there or it isn’t important; or maybe in relationships or families where our voice isn’t important or is not heard properly.

“For me, poetry was maybe the first time that I realised I do have a voice and not only that, but people are listening to it and resonating with it.

“It’s real, it’s reflecting back at me, and I can see that it actually makes some kind of difference in the world. It may not be a massive difference, but it is a difference.

“I can read a poem and it resonates with someone and it moves them, or I can read a poem and it makes someone shift their opinion on a topic just slightly, and these are real world outcomes for having your voice heard. That is an amazing thing. That keeps me coming back to it every time.

“It’s a platform to be able to say what you need to say in the world.”

Continuing to advocate the vulnerability publishing exposes you to, he says: “At that moment of it being out there, in a shop somewhere, it is no longer yours. It becomes everyone else’s at this point, and it is open to their interpretation and their biases and lived experiences.

“That’s scary s***, to be honest. You are open to attack, but you are open to every emotion.

“It is up to them to feel the way they feel about it. The thing you put into it may not be the thing they take it out of it. You have no control over that.

“That feeling of you having this thing that you are in control of, and it is fully yours, to then overnight no longer having any control over it and it is everyone’s… it is very exciting, liberating, and scary.

“It’s hard work and precarious but when you do it, it’s there and nobody can stop you. What else would I want to do with my time? Nothing.”

  • Kevin Gilday performs at Café Wynd in Dunfermline on Thursday, September 7 at 6pm.
  • Tickets are available for £7 (£8.03 w/booking fee) online at Eventbrite here.

Dunfermline Press: Kevin Gilday performs at Cafe Wynd in Dunfermline on Thursday, September 7, at 6pm.Kevin Gilday performs at Cafe Wynd in Dunfermline on Thursday, September 7, at 6pm. (Image: Rhianonne Stone)