“Competition poetry for the introverted,” is how the Glasgow Women’s Library pitched their first ever Calm Slam, a poetry competition for “every woman* who loves poetry but likes the quiet life,” centred around the theme of speaking up.
What I found especially interesting about the slam was the way these poets could use media to their advantage due to the digital aspect. Some stood in front of the camera to speak, while others didn’t show their face and used images to represent what they spoke about. Lydia Davies used a blurred background for her poem ‘In her left hand, she clutched a pair of gloves’. The background mirrored her soft voice, almost whispering, but the poem was made powerful by these very things. She also used a metronome to represent the woman in her poem walking up a hill, syncing her voice to the beat. I was impressed by the variety of ideas that came from the “speaking up” prompt.
There was one short poem about sexual violence, and another about fatigue being an ‘unwanted friend’, which had similarities with the poem by Carole Morin about feeling unsafe in your own home. The poem by Rosa Straw, ‘She Speaks,’ had my favourite line “frenetic, kinetic, phonetic so poetic,” which she clapped along and stamped her feet to. Kirsten MacQuarrie even compared herself to a weed, raising a “white flag of lichen” as her “siege ends” when plucked. Decisions the poets made, like performing a poem in a garden amongst the sounds of birds, is what made me feel closer them than some I’ve seen live, even though we were still separated by a screen.
*This is inclusive of trans and intersex women, as well as non-binary and gender fluid people who identify in a significant way as woman or female.
Words: Beatrix Elizabeth Livesey-Stephens
Image: Ana Hine