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Poetry Getting under your skin with Confessionals

Victoria McNulty
The Book Club
London EC2

TOP drawer young Glasgae poet Michelle Fisher reckoned I’d appreciate Victoria McNulty’s show Confessionals.

As Victoria had left the east end of Glasgow to tour her show and was in the east end of London I went. Sadly it was the Shoreditch of today and so Michelle, Victoria and I felt a bit out of place among the hipsters and ostentatious privilege of ensconced gentrifiers.

Victoria performs the show with singer and guitarist Abi Normal, who also adds some kick to selective dialogue. The show focuses on domestic violence and also looks at sectarianism.

It explores how violence in the community, often based on power, affects violence on the person, especially of women.

“This not a pub. This is not a crowd. This is a mob,” as the piece says.

Victoria and Abi have just toured the show nationally, gigging in pubs, coffee shops, theatres and at the James Connolly Festival.
The show is challenging, the imagery visceral, and it is not easy to write about a subject that swallows the emotions so well.

The poetry is a rhythmic narrative. It’s good to see a poet not doing a Kate Tempest — which Kate does perfectly well — and writing in their own voice and accent. The piece is definitely Scottish but much is set in a pub and among people and stories that any working class person in Britain will know and recognise.

Any poem with “bawbag” in it is okay by me.

Abi sings three songs. Two are her own and an evocative rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s Black Boys On Mopeds.

“England's not the mythical land of Madame George and roses/It's the home of police who kill black boys on mopeds.”

Some in the audience caught each other’s eye during the song and remembered the killing of Rashan Charles less than a mile up the road a year ago. There was a divide, felt only by some of us, between who knew and those who didn’t then and don’t now.

While so much London spoken word is hot (Round) housed and boringly homogeneous, it is refreshing to see an understated poet let the words unfold the story rather than semaphore the issues.

It may be the strength of working class literature that we don’t fit with middle class careerists.

Confessionals states: “If you could choose words, manipulate sentences, shuffle our nouns, we could use our education and say something profound. Refrain from blame. Refrain from victimisation. Refrain from generalisation with your long words and articulate pens the likes of you will illustrate, explain, that although you feel like you have no voice, you have a choice!”

Confessionals, the full text, is available from Speculative Books. 

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