Victoria Adukwei Bulley
“I myself am bored / of fig leaves, of shames / I did not choose” – from ‘About Ana’
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About Victoria Adukwei Bulley
Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a British-born Ghanaian poet, writer, and filmmaker who was shortlisted for the Brunel University African Poetry Prize in 2016 and received an Eric Gregory Award for her pamphlet Girl B, published as part of the New Generation African Poets series in 2017. An alumna of both the Barbican Young Poets and Octavia Poetry Collectives, as well as a Complete Works and Instituto Sacatar fellow, Bulley has held residencies internationally in the US, Brazil, and the V&A. In 2019, she was awarded a TECHNĒ scholarship for fully-funded doctoral research at Royal Holloway, University of London; and in 2022 her debut collection, Quiet, circling around ideas of Black interiority, intimacy and selfhood, will be published by Faber.
Bulley is also the director of MOTHER TONGUES, an intergenerational poetry, film and translation project exploring the indigenous linguistic heritages of poets of colour, supported by Autograph and Arts Council England. She explores this territory in the recordings shared here with poems testing the various mediations of language on identity, the bridging and estrangements, through the use of form and dialect and the interplay of distance and closeness.
In ‘Why can’t a K be beautiful and magick?’ Bulley oscillates between an observational, quasi-scientific register and a more implicated, up-close-and-personal mode interrogating the prejudice placed on the letter K by gatekeepers of an official language network:
Does the K have a temper? Perhaps it should
because it sounds like a can’t. Switch the a to
a u and it sounds like washing your mouth out with
Listerine. This is a litany against the commonwealth
The use of ebonics here becomes a metaphor of not just what but who is excluded from beauty. The poem probes the mechanism that mediates what a black woman, a black woman poet, can and can’t say – the hoops she has to jump through to get a seat at the white-cloth-table of voice, a formal etiquette where any display of anger can have her escorted out into enforced illegibility again. The poem makes us alive to all this, moving us through the loops of this estrangement in real time before the voice asserts its own linguistic proof and refusal:
not all pretty words end in Cs and easy-Es. Not all
language is Romantic but all language is
loved and lived through
Recordings made on September 24, 2021 at Spiritland Studio, North London.