Following a superb night of eclectic lyricism from the Mancunian ensemble in April, this month saw Salena Godden, Hollie McNish plus resident compere Byron Vincent and his “mate Dave” take to the stage for May's instalment of Blahblahblah.
With a fragmented preamble that existed somewhere in the grey area between an explanation and an excuse, Byron clarified that in accordance with Blahblahblah tradition, his material had been concocted during that very day. Byron's self-deprecating humour and delightfully depressing idiosyncrasies carried him through a series of puns and quips as he got the evening off to a typically nonsensical and off-beat start.
The stage was soon set for a friend of his whom he had encouraged to write a poem on the basis of his uncanny ability to insult people – Byron in particular. Introduced as the man who once described the compere as the “Aryan mascot for a mod-based paedophile ring”, 'Byron's mate Dave' strode on stage. Flicking his fringe from his face and taking stance, he launched into his first and only poem: 'Fuck Feminism'. Dave's words articulated his frustrations as a dedicated advocate of gender equality, albeit one with less sexual conquests than such credentials should apparently warrant him. Appearing extremely comfortable under the Basement's limelight, Dave confidently and accurately delivered his first performance, demonstrating a great potential to write poetry that is both satirical and relatable.
Next to take to the stage was the delicately charismatic Hollie McNish, described by Byron as “consistently good”. Reciting some selections from both her performance repertoire and her anthology, ‘Push Kick’, they shared a thematic anchor primarily docked in pregnancy, motherhood and femininity. Hollie went on to read the refreshingly outspoken ‘Mathematics’, an eloquent and derisive attack on the anti-immigration crusaders who plague her place of work.
Each poem that followed added a further dimension to Hollie's warm and personable character as she cast a touching and humorous light over her experiences on a maternity ward, her relationship with her partner and the social challenges presented by motherhood. Her final poem, 'Wow', neatly articulated her vexation with an image-conscious society, drawing a jarring contrast between the critical outlook of so many adults and the carefree joy of her daughter, admiring her own reflection in the mirror.
In keeping with a lot of Hollie's work, 'Wow' concluded with an overriding sense of optimism. Revising his initial description, Byron thanked the “consistently excellent” Hollie McNish as she left the stage to warm applause, closing the first half of the night.
Returning from the interval, the basement crowd was awed by the wily Salena Godden. Immediately establishing herself as a loud and unpredictable stage presence, she launched into a smorgasbord of schizophrenic oratory. Stemming undeniably from a deeply sensitive core and delivered with uncompromising tenacity, Salena's poetry was as acerbic as it was touching.
After embarking on a surreal journey around “the back of the Internet” which left the smell of “piss and burnt plastic” lingering in the audience's nostrils, Salena began the acrimonious tirade that was ‘A Letter to an Air Stewardess’. Peppered with a certain degree of spontaneity, the poem was essentially a string of caustic insults delivered with an accumulating sense of frustration to increasingly hilarious effect.
In direct contrast to these more animated pieces, Salena achieved balance in the set by casting an amber glow over fond childhood memories of “the first days of spring” and the “festering itch” of freshly cut grass. Still rife with sharp wit, Salena's poetry demonstrated depth and diversity alongside a stunning linguistic ability that brought materials, textures and emotions to life with tangible lucidity.
Photography: George Dallimore