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Drop in by Julie McNeill

Today I’m delighted to welcome talented poet, Julie McNeill, to reflect upon a poem from her debut chapbook, Ragged Rainbows (Hybriddreich, 2021)

Thank you so much to Nigel for inviting me to drop in to talk about my debut pamphlet, Ragged Rainbows. I’m imagining we are chatting about the poems with a hot cuppa in hand, quietly bearing our souls and attempting to put the world to rights as this is how many of the poems in the collection were conceived.

The pamphlet came together at the height of the #metoo movement when women were sharing their experiences of discrimination, sexism and abuse in an act of solidarity and sisterhood. I was so inspired by their strength that I began speaking to the women in my life and recording their stories. I am forever indebted to them for their honesty and bravery and for trusting me with their stories. Interspersed in the collection are poems about the political backdrop at the time, the beginnings of the covid19 pandemic and thoughts on motherhood and love.

I have chosen ‘The Glass Ceiling’ to feature today as I think it’s a wee poem with an important message that could be overlooked in the collection.

The poem is one of two in the collection dedicated to a friend of mine, Helen. A successful academic who smashes through ceiling and expectations often without fanfare. It explores the strength of women quietly chipping away to make change possible. When people think about feminism and women’s rights it’s often the radical, loud voices that are heard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making your voices heard and being vocal in your beliefs but I wanted to draw attention to the change that comes from hard work, from being steadfast and from charting an unbeaten path for others to follow.

As a mother to a son and a daughter I am grateful to those who have laid the groundwork for them and created opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible even a generation ago.

I am the Makar for the Hampden Collection, a beautiful smorgasbord of football poetry. One of the first poems I wrote for them is in this collection, it is called ‘The Women Before Her’, which is a poem about watching the Scottish Women’s National Team through my six year old daughter’s eyes.  I am grateful for the role models, for the people she can look up to and those who make it all seem possible. Afterall, you can’t be what you can’t see.

Helen is one such role model. She holds her own, in every sense of the word. She does it though hard work, focus and determination and smashes through glass ceilings almost as a by product.

I must give my thanks to Jack Caradoc of Dreich, a champion for new voices and an unwavering support, and to all the women who trusted me with their words for this collection. I am indebted to you all.

Read my review of this impressive debut, Ragged Rainbows, next week!

The Saboteur Awards 2022

I’m delighted to announce that this drop in/review feature has been shortlisted for a Saboteur Award in the category of Reviewer of Literature for the second year running. If you like this feature, I would be both honoured and delighted to have your support. You can vote for me by clicking this link: Saboteur Awards 2022 and completing the voting form. Deadline 7th May.

It would be fantastic to go one better than last year and actually win it against such stiff competition!

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