An Interview with Alice Tarbuck

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This October sees the Dundee Literary Festival, among which delights we may experience three contributors to a collection of essays by and about 21st-century women, Nasty Women. Jen McGregor, Alice Tarbuck and Becca Inglis will help elucidate why it was already a sensation before it launched on International Women’s Day this year. The Mumble managed to catch up with one of the trio for a wee blether


1085-2169-onestopartsHello Alice, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Hello! I’m from Edinburgh (Leith to be specific!), and after a period in Cambridge and London, am back to happily living in Edinburgh!

When did you first realise you were a poet?
I think like most people who enjoy writing, I’ve written all my life – I admire the unselfconsciousness of children, who just go for it! Certainly, in the beginning, it was all a load of joyful nonsense. Still is, really!

Which poets inspired you at the beginning & who today?
At the beginning, as a child, I read things like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses, and loved it. My current favourite poets in Scotland and the UK are Rebecca Tamas, who writes brilliant witchy poems, Iain Morrison, who writes incredible, intricate poems that wriggle into your brain, Marjorie Lofti Gill, whose collection ‘Pilgrim’ I could not recommend highly enough, and Harry Josephine Giles, whose collection, Tonguit, was listed for the Forward Poetry Prize for best first collection last year.

You are currently a PhD candidate at the University of Dundee & the Scottish Poetry Library – how is the thesis going?
*insert screaming noise!* I’m hopefully handing in in a matter of days.


What is that attracted you to the poetry of Thomas A. Clark?
Clark is unlike any poet working in the UK today. His work comprises tiny folded objects, right up through artists books to installations on a large scale. His meditative, minimalist aesthetic draws the reader in, to the beautiful complexity that lies behind so much of his work. You can get a better sense of it via his blog.

What does Alice Tarbuck like to do when she’s not writing?
I’m a keen forager, and I love to cook. I also enjoy being the least coordinated person in any given exercise class, and singing.

What are the stand-out continuous themes running through your work?
I am very drawn to mysteries, be they from religion or folktales. Moments of transformation, things going wrong. I’m interested in the hard, sharp, strange edges of things, and in the body, in its fluids and curious forms. I like edging away from grammar and syntax.



Later this month you will be talking about the Nasty Women project at the Dundee Literary Festival. Can you tell us about this?
I am so excited to be speaking alongside Becca Inglis and Jen McGregor, and we’re so grateful to the Dundee Literary Festival, and to Peggy Hughes, for programming us! We’ll be talking about the extraordinary success of 404 Ink Publishing, and why it’s more important than ever to hold the truth to account in the midst of sensationalism and international political turmoil. You can purchase tickets here.

Which authors will you be looking out for yourself at the festival?
There are so many brilliant authors coming this year, its almost impossible to choose!
However, Rachel McCrum and Caroline Bird are unmissable, and I’m so excited for Erin Farley’s tour and talk around the Jute Works – fascinating! https://literarydundee.co.uk/festival/tour-warp-weft-and-words

What is the literary future of Alice Tarbuck?
Ha! Who knows! More poems, hopefully, and perhaps even something longer!

Victoria McNulty

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THE MUMBLE :  So Victoria, where are you from originally & how did you get to Glasgow.

VICTORIA : Well I’m originally from Glasgow, from a wee scheme called Cranhill in the East end. I’ve lived in the east end most of my life, even as a student I didn’t venture any further than Dennistoun!

THE MUMBLE :   You’re quite a newcomer to the performance poetry scene in the city – what got you into it

VICTORIA : I had written some song lyrics and performed them as poems about 2 years ago. Then the following year I was left pretty heart broken and at a loose end so started writing and performing. Basically to keep me off Tinder and out of bother.




Faster than a hurricane.

Louder than a bomb,

Leith Walk lay spread for us.

We pounded, pardoning no one.

We slugged vodka from plastic bottles,

Slung fags between fingers,

Only to linger at a picture,

Or some kind of kebab in the window.

The sky spit Sunshine on Leith,

Where whores and thieves tossed their Sunday bests,

With arrests,

And casuals dressed in sharp clothing.

It’s ongoing.

Thins pulse, in the black heart in the Crown Jewel of Scotland.


THE MUMBLE :  What are the main themes behind your poetry

VICTORIA : Well, after thinking about this for a bit a lot of my poems are probably about drinking, and smoking, sex and Celtic FC. But also I write a lot of politically inspired stuff, socialism. I’ve been described as a feminist poet before, and that’s probably quite fair. I write a lot about Glasgow and my family. And Manchester Indie, always need to get that in there.


THE MUMBLE :  Who are your poetic inspirations, both classical & contemporary

VICTORIA : My pals and family. And people I see in the pubs are probably what inspires me the most. Lyrically, it’s probably more musicians I admire like Ian Brown, Joe Strummer or Shane McGowan, more than modern poets. Music my first love. Modern writers wise I read lot of Irvine Welsh and was really into Football Factory. It was inspiring to see that you could write in your own accent about your own environment. The first spoken word poet I saw that blew me away was Shaun Moore, and I suppose still my favorite contemporary poets are people I know on the Glasgow scene. But I do love traditional poetry William Blake, Yeats, Seamus Heaney. His poem The Casualty was the first piece I fell in love with and it still moves me to tears.



I want to be your Bonny.

Well obviously.

In the sense you find me shockingly good looking,

Fit and amusing,

In every situation.

But that night you told your brother I was a ride,

I did find it a wee bit snide,

You compared me to a bike.

Or that black battered Voltzwagen

You park outside like a tank.

I still want you to be my Clyde.


THE MUMBLE :  Where do you perform your poetry & which places are the most memorable

VICTORIA : I perform everywhere that I can! There was an open mic at the Blue Chair on Wednesdays where I first cut my teeth, and I have some of the fondest memories of those nights. The Inn Deep pub in the Glasgow West End… it was from performing there that made things started to happen for me. I performed at Eden festival this year. It rained all day and I was crammed under this pagoda with a wee audience, some beer and smokes, it felt special. The Rappers Vs Poets event at the Edinburgh fringe was huge. It was so slick and corporate, and kinda amazing to get a shot of something like that. If only once. I performed at a night for Castlemilk Against Austerity before and it was the best kind of rammy, a challenge and a warm crowd. Oh and I sneaked a couple of poems with Trongate Rum Riots, they are totally immense so that was cool.

THE MUMBLE :  What are your thoughts on the current performance poetry scene in Scotland

VICTORIA : You know? I don’t feel too qualified to talk about a scene as such. But there’s a lot of very kind people busying away with good creative vibes. It’s a vibrant scene and a labour of love. I love the DIY punk ethos of a lot of it. So many performers just crack on and pull off something grand.



We were the last,

You see,

To drink Tetley and not Chai tea.

To go to gigs not see a band.

We didn’t need selfie sticks at festivals!

We just held hands,

And danced

And braved sunburns for tans.

Boxing night,

Sinking Tennents cans,

You swaggering up the night bus,

Shaun Ryder on a Manchester tram,

A born again bam.

In new trainers.


 You won the Sonnet Youth Slam Championship last year  -can you tell us about the experience

VICTORIA : That was surreal for me cause I still don’t feel like a poet, and certainly not a Slam poet. Sonnet Youth is such a high quality night and every performer was excellent. I had actually only prepared two poems, cause I didn’t imagine getting to the final round. After it I drank so much tequila I fell asleep on the taxi. I think I was in shock! But slams are what they are, it depends on so many factors, the judges, how you are on the night, so I don’t think they are always nessesilary representive or deserved. Just as well taking them for at face value.

THE MUMBLE :   What are the future plans of the poetical Victoria McNulty.

VICTORIA : I am doing a long performance of a poetic story as part of a radical arts festival called Visible Women (4th of March, Kinning Park Complex). There are a lot of Glasgow artists from different disciplines involved and it coincides with International Woman’s Week. And I’ll be performing at Evidently in Salford in the summer. But apart from that my plans are to go with the flow and enjoy every minute of it.



So whose pen tells her freedom?

Whose lips dare not speak her tongue?

She cast me out the garden

To rot in her dole queues,

Her dank schemes.

I was a wandered teen,

And I deny her,

In all her shortbread pomp.

So this is why I write.

Not for islands, oil or troops.

Her bonny glens and low land stoops.

But for Gallaghers, Connollys

O’Hara’s and Donechy’s

Who carved the rock on which she stood.

Together they all stand,

Wrapped in a cloak of Saltire blue.

Freedom has no native tongue,

She binds no ethnic glue.

Our bonds are built in steel and stone,

The bedrock of proud Alba.



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