Hey Readers At the beginning of month I was privileged to attend and perform at an excellent and entertaining spoken word event at Ivory Black’s on behalf of Glasgow University Feminist Society. This was a night when to paraphrase that old Eurythmics classic from the 1980’s sisters were not only doing it for ourselves we were doing it by speaking the truth to power and making at least part of the world a better place as we did so
With poems on topics from periods to Harry Potter’s female friends from Cups of tea to one night stands this was a night that had plus just a little bit extra. From the moment the night got under way right to the very end of the very last poem I was enthralled by a team of poets who showed that we get the chance to be seen as more than an add on women are just as educated erudite and entertaining as any man
The evening was excellently hosted by Shannon McGregor whose relaxing and chatty style makes her a natural for the role of compare. Trust me on this I speak from experience on this issue, and after 10 years of comparing words and music I think I know what makes a good host for an evening
Believe me when I say this was a great night to be a woman highlighting all the good things we share such as sisterhood solidarity and empowerment and whilst also reminding us of the negative Factors which still plague our society such as sexism and misogyny.
The night was started by Eleanor Capaldi whose poem What Do I Owe You? kicked off the night by asking more than a few searching questions of both men and the wider society dominated as is it by the patriarchal structures which have a natural bias towards men
Fiona Stirling was second to the stage and I have to say I really liked her opening poem Ode To An Ass. I thought this was a warm witty piece of writing which was laced with killer images and phrases. Come to think of it, her second poem Absolute Mugee was also very enjoyable and and Fiona’s take on a lesbian hen night for one of the Hogwarts girls meant she succeeded where J K Rowling never could and made Harry Potter sound interesting. It also opened my eyes and more importantly my ears to a poet I would like to hear a lot more of.
You know I’ve often heard it said that three is a lucky number I’ve also aware that it is sometimes described as a crowd and believe me the crowds will be queueing up to the woman who was third up on this occasion. Rachel Mumford produced a masterpiece with her take on McGonagall the world’s worst poet for those who don’t know having the dating app tinder on his phone. This it has to be said was a masterful piece of quality comic writing which I have to say I enjoyed immensely.
Just when you thought the night couldn’t get better it was time to hear words of wisdom from the woman who was recently crowned the Scottish Slam Champion Iona Lee. Having been in attendance on the night she won the title I instantly became a big fan of Iona’s talent. Like so many poets on that night it was my first time of hearing her so you can imagine my delight that less than three weeks later I was billed to appear alongside her.
Iona started her set by performing My Blood or as some unreconstructed males would say that poem about periods. This was followed by It Was Summer Outside a poem which contains stunning visual imagery as well as a powerful and evocative use of language. This was highlighted by the wonderfully charming phrase it wasn’t quite Paris but we pretended it was. This to me shows the power of unlimited imagination when you have no chains to hold you back. This was a poem of hope written not only with love but also with optimism, this is a poem which illustrates why I would like to be in my twenties again. Our champion word Smith finished her set by performing Quick Cups Of Tea and Love Not Me. Like the other poems in her set Iona showed how to make the ordinary seem interesting. This to me is the real art of poetry and believe me Iona Lee has crafted her art to perfection. I have a funny feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more from this brilliant young talent in the months and years to come.
As Iona finished her set we went to the first bar break of the evening and I got the chance to catch up with Victoria McNulty, and Anna Crow both of whom I had spent time with the previous night at The Blue Chair 1st birthday party. I was also able to have a chat to a much longer standing friend who I’ve only seen a couple of times in the last few years and it was good to catch up with Anita Govan.
After the break however it wasn’t Anita who was first to the mic but another of poetry’s rising stars Katharine MacFarlane who got proceedings restarted with a cracking Celtic set which started with Listen, this was followed by Haunting as she took an even greater step on this road. Katharine continued this theme with The Wishing Tree which as she said in her introduction was based on a Celtic myth. This was followed by Mary’s Howe before concluding one of the best sets I’ve heard in long time at any spoken word event with a 14th century story on Branwen who was the sister of the Welsh king who endured horrific treatment at the hands of her husband.
Next up was Briony Howarth whose performed three poems Midas Men, Castaway Dress, and Icarus Girl spoke some much needed truths on power and its impact on women and the fact that it’s not used wisely nor as positive as it should be.
As Briony went back to set to her seat it was the turn of Monica Ayoub to share her work with the a gathering. In a very powerful and emotionally charged set this talented young poet delivered three poems Desire, Those Moments, and Runaway. This was a set with both darkness and intimacy it was passionate, and thought provoking poetry which came straight from the heart from
a fresh new talent I hope to see more of in the future.
Monica was followed to the mic by Abigail Sharp. Like so many on the bill Abigail is a new name to me and I must admit I was very impressed by her poems Omen And Calories, and the brilliant One Night Stand. To me these poems demonstrate the creative gifts and poetic power of an authentic new voice I want to hear more of in the future.
Talking of authentic voices they don’t come more authentic than Anita Govan. For those of you who don’t know Anita the best description I can give was offered by my friend and fellow poet Sean McBride who as a former serving soldier nicknamed her the Regimental Sargent Major. This tongue in check comment was a complement to a woman who taught me and many others including the aforementioned Mr McBride the basics of voice projection to improve our performance. Trust me though Anita may like myself may not have the height of some on the circuit, I think it is safe to say that what she lacks in inches she makes up for in stage craft. Believe me Anita Govan is a woman who knows how to make herself heard and is living proof of the saying I learned from my gran about good things coming in small packages.
On this occasion Anita treated us to three poems as she took me down memory lane and won a whole new set of admirers as she started with This Is Poetry. This poem is her personal manifesto stating what she believes to spoken word poetry to be all about Anita then moved to an excellent poem entitled Shaving which illustrated the power of the patriarchal structures that feminism faces on a daily basis before finishing her contribution to the evening and leading us to the second bar break with the highly emotive My Home Is Where My Heart Is. This to me was a fitting end to an enjoyable set which reminded me not only of my debt of gratitude to this poetic force of nature but also the value of friendship.
After the break as I slowly realised my time was fast approaching I began to prepare my set for the evening. First however there were two more readers to enjoy and when those two performers are Anna Crow and Victoria McNulty then I know I’m going to find their performances both entertaining and educational. Of the two, it was Anna who was first to the stage to kick off the last segment of the show. With a set which tackled all the issues that illustrate why feminism is still needed in our 21st century world. For her first poem Anna selected Occupy The Space this is a poem on the dynamics of power and how it works to our disadvantage as women. This was followed by Tell Us We Don’t Exist. This poem is a very personal one for Anna who identifies as non binary in terms of gender In other words Anna does tick the boxes of female, or male and lives what I would call a gender fluid life. This poem expresses her frustration at society’s limits on what she sees. as a lack of acceptance of anything other than a two gender norm. For her penultimate poem Anna moved from gender politics to mental health with the brilliant Ask Me If I’m OK. I have heard this poem on a topic which is close to my heart as my flatmate suffers from depression, on many occasions and every time I am captivated by its passion, power, and purpose. One of the reasons I enjoy this poem as much as I do is because it challenges us to think of others who though they appear to be conquering the world or at least conquering their demons may be far more fragile than you think and thought provoking poem reminds us that keeping a discreet watch for those who help others may be more helpful to them than you know. Anna then finished her seat with Queer Is which is a positive polemic from the perspective a poet who identifies as someone who like myself is part of the LGBTI Community.
Victoria McNulty was next to the stage and the penultimate poet of the evening delivered a fantastic set of four poems and her opening poem had the very ironic title of I Hate The Word Feminism. On sending this poem to the event organiser she told me that she wasn’t sure they would get the irony. Luckily however, the organisers did see the funny side and to me it was the best poem which which to open her set.
Like myself Victoria is proud of her heritage and in her next poem The Exiles she reflects on this fierce pride in the roots that keep her grounded. This was followed by Hero which was written in tribute to Stone Roses front man Ian Brown and she concluded her set with Alba which is my personal favourite from her poetry collection. In this poem she looks at her relationship with Scotland and takes the listener on a very personal journey in which she relates her family story as they left the western coast of Donegal
to the east end of Scotland’s largest city.
As Victoria completed the set Shannon called me to the stage and as last woman standing it was my job to bring the night to an end My original plan had been to read only two poems but since the majority of performers had read more than two I thought I might as well read all four poems I had brought with me. I have to be honest and say that I was a wee bit nervous as before as none of these poems have been performed on more than a handful of occasions and the first and last poems had never been read before at any performance event.
I started my set with Self Made Women which highlights the sexism that all women and that includes trans women have to face every day of our lives. I then move on to A Story To Tell which though one of my longer poems again highlights attitudes which are all too prevalent whether from sexists, or those who call themselves traditionalists or perhaps even a third group namely well meaning idiots who to pigeonhole you in to a certain style. This group are usually older women or in some cases those appear to look older who think they are considerably better looking and stylish than they are actually are and are in urgent need of two things a mirror and a reality check. My penultimate poem The Road To New Beginnings dealt with my transition and gave subtle hints as to why despite knowing myself from a very early age it took as long as it did get started. I concluded what I believe to be my strongest spoken word set of the year( I make this comment due to the fact that I have started to occasionally introduce a wee bit of trans related comedy in to my performances) with my second new poem of the night. Entitled Tonight I Wear A Mini Skirt this was a poem to celebrate the fact Glasgow stood up to the vile of misogyny of Roosh V and told him and his followers exactly where they could go and certainly wasn’t our city’s main square.
It was I think fitting that I concluded the night with the most feminist poem of my set on a night where woman’s voices were heard loudly, proudly, and clearly and from wishing trees for self made women to hen nights for Hogwarts girls sisters said it for ourselves and we said it Glasgow style.
Love And Best Wishes