That’s What She Said
Scottish Poetry Library – Mezzanine Level
**** 4 Stars
For Books’ Sake is the organisation behind ‘That’s What She Said’, a series of events which tours the UK promoting women writers. This feminist spoken word ensemble graced the stage of the Scottish Poetry Library this week with three individual shows. The final show of the series featured three talented poets – Emma McGordon, Victoria McNulty and Leyla Josephine – preceded by an open mic.
Salena Godden was the host of the Saturday night show; she skilfully roused the well-heeled rabble into rapturous applause despite her Fringe-driven exhaustion. Unfortunately, a late start and a break which ran over its allotted time contributed to an event which finished half an hour later than it was supposed to, which was already a healthy two hours. I had to race to my next show due to this tardiness, so I have to deduct a star on behalf of my calf muscles. A slightly more careful approach to timings wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Despite this minor inconvenience, That’s What She Said was a roaring success. The open mic was eclectic in style and subject matter. Opening the show was Elizabeth McGeowan, who delivered her punchy political poetry about delicate topics, such as the recent trial in Belfast involving national rugby players accused of rape, with tact and nerve. Following Elizabeth was one of my favourite performers of the night – Ellen Starbuck. Her screenplay elicited many chuckles, while conveying a multi-faceted character and exposing sexist movie tropes. The final open mic poet, Alissa Anne Jeun Yi, provided another fresh poetic style, with humorous reflections on commuting-while-introverted and flirty Fringe flyering.
The night’s feature presentations kicked off with multi-award-winning poet from the Lake District, Emma McGordon. Her poem about the infamous section 28 resonated with a strong sense of injustice, specifically the silent injustice of growing up unaware of the political policies which restricted your ability to know yourself. The second feature was a name I recognised but had not yet had the pleasure of seeing, Victoria McNulty. Her Glaswegian inflections matched her no-nonsense subject matter and her piece about supporting women who suffer from domestic violence offered an emotive alternative to a Burns Night ‘Toast to the Lassies’. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Victoria’s performances next time I’m in Glasgow.
As a headliner, Leyla Josephine is cool and collected. I’ve enjoyed seeing Leyla perform in the past and was looking forward to seeing her again, especially after hearing her stirring poem ‘I think she was a she’ at a rally leading up to the Irish abortion referendum. An amusing highlight of her set was an inquiry into vaginas – a fine example of how spoken word poetry has the power to present a novel or unusual idea (in this case, the idea that vaginas should be actively celebrated) in a format which is both accessible and grandiloquent. It is precisely this mingling of simplicity and extravagance I look for in a poet and Leyla certainly does not disappoint.
Review by Joanne Harrison