She said “I loved you like my favorite armchair” and the room fell silent.
Her voice grew louder and louder and her pace quicker and quicker as if the words were burning inside her and she needed to spit them out.
The room temperature was coming to a boil. There were so many bodies packed in one place, so many eyes staring up at the small, blond girl on the stage, and it was quickly becoming evident that the room was reaching its capacity.
At the bar, girls decked in plaid shared barstools with curly-haired boys while leagues of wide-eyed freshmen kneeled on the floor. All I could do was lean against the back door, secretly letting in the frigid night air, and listen.
Edinburgh’s first poetry slam of the year had begun.
Crowned the world’s first UNESCO “City of Literature,” Edinburgh has long had a love affair with the written word. The countless monuments spanning the city skyline pay homage to the great poets, novelists and philosophers who once tread these very streets.
Every cobblestone street is seeped with centuries of stories — ghost stories, love stories, revolutionary stories, you name it — and walking around you can practically feel the magic in the air.
Perhaps that’s why The Elephant House, a cute but unassuming coffee shop in Old Town Edinburgh, is always jam-packed. The birthplace of “Harry Potter,” The Elephant House doubles as a pilgrimage site for Potterheads worldwide, where the most devoted fans can even confess their love of the series by writing on the bathroom walls.
Every inch of the city, from the terrace of Edinburgh Castle to the foggy peak of Arthur’s Seat and the other six hills, is dripping in inspiration.
Even the famously horrible weather makes a good story — or at least pushes you to find one.
And so we crowded into the student pub, as desperate to escape the biting cold and rain as we were to hear some poetry.
The Edinburgh city proper found its way into a handful of poems; in a few it stood in the spotlight as poets rhymed about local haunts and adventures, while in others it silently stood in the backdrop, absorbing all the emotion the two-minute timeslot would offer.
Although the room remained as hot as ever, the atmosphere changed wildly every time a new poet took the stage. The redheaded girl from England brought chills and hushed, introspective silences with her elegy to lost love, only to have the quiet broken minutes later by the hilariously self-deprecating man from Scotland. Cultural icons ranging from Neil Armstrong to JK Rowling’s Professor Snape took on new forms and meanings with each verse until they became something different altogether.
Over the course of an hour and a half we heard rap, limericks, modern sonnets and nearly every other form of poetry in a room bubbling with enthusiasm for the arts. The diversity of the poems and subject matter mirrored the diversity of the audience: The pub was packed with people from all corners of the world, from all walks of life and with all different experiences. Yet we all came together to celebrate the power of words as the breadth and depth of the poetry came to reflect the diversity of the human experience. Each poem at the poetry slam, like each day here in Edinburgh, was entirely new, yet after a few lines it would begin to seem familiar. Through poetry, I could relate to each of the strangers onstage.
As a writer, this atmosphere of pure creativity and artistic encouragement was electrifying. Here words were more than just words; they were love, loss, laughter, even your favorite armchair. Maybe I’m starting to see Edinburgh like my favorite armchair already.
Margie Fuchs is a junior in the College. Life on the Fringe appears every other Friday in the guide.