The Scotsman Sessions #388: Michael Pedersen

Welcome to the Scotsman Sessions, a series of short video performances from artists all around the country introduced by our critics. Here, poet, author and Edinburgh University writer in residence Michael Pedersen reads his poem, The Cat Prince.

Poet and author Michael Pedersen has spent the last 18 months in a multi-coloured blur of creative endeavour. His prose debut, Boy Friends, was published to enormous acclaim and is currently shortlisted for Best Non-Fiction Book at Scotland’s National Book Awards; his latest poetry collection, The Cat Prince & Other Poems, was similarly lauded; and he recently completed his first semester as writer in residence at the University of Edinburgh.

As if that weren’t enough, the co-founder of much-missed literary collective Neu Reekie! – which ran for ten successful years – will be busy in December with various Edinburgh live events, chief among them being a conversation with Nicola Sturgeon at the Queen’s Hall, during which attendees can also enjoy readings from star guests such as Val McDermid and Hollie McNish, plus another outing for poetry, prose and music fandango Cold Turkey at Summerhall.

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Before all of that, however, Pedersen found some time to perform this typically delightful and idiosyncratic performance of The Cat Prince for The Scotsman Sessions.

Michael PedersenMichael Pedersen
Michael Pedersen

Why did he choose that piece in particular?

“Alongside the humour there’s histrionics and heartbreak,” he explains. “Within it is an attempt to rebrand what might be termed a failure of masculinity as something tender and triumphant. It’s a poem paying tribute to my mum, and all the ways she defended and dignified my quirks. Also, I love cats and have just performed an experiential reading at Edinburgh’s Maison de Moggy cat café.”

Pedersen discovered his zest for poetry while at high school.

“Something sparked,” he recalls. “Just a wisp of a flame at first, a candle’s worth, could barely singe your fringe on it. By the time I set off for uni I’d a bonfire in the belly. I wrote like a trooper, for the pure joy in it, nothing more, didn’t read anywhere, didn’t publish. Upon graduating, I took a hobby job as a London lawyer until the more financially lucrative career of poetry kicked off. Reading voraciously and hanging about at, then building, literary gigs are still the only qualifications I have in this field. Though I do write the stuff.”

He really does. This tousle-haired cat is an intoxicating talent, and he shows no signs of slowing down in 2024. He’ll be writing his first novel, which he’s very excited about, while “churning up more wordy beauty at the uni. I’ll also be touring a lot supporting Hollie McNish on her mega-tour for her new book Lobster.”

Working at Edinburgh University is clearly a dream gig for our industrious word-slinger.

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“Och, mushy as it is, [I love] the brio of the students and the staff, and the sublime stories they conjure. Plus, I have my own wee office overlooking George Square. Pretty dreamy for a kid that used to cruise around this part of town lost and bewildered.”