Poetry on Impact / Vanessa Kisuule

Vanessa Kisuule - schreef het 'virale' gedicht 'Hollow'

Vanessa Kisuule - writer of the 'viral' poem 'Hollow'

Saturday 30th January
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Vanessa Kisuule served as the City Poet of Bristol when, in reaction to the murder of George Floyd, #BlackLivesMatter protests led to the tearing down of statues of prominent historical figures, including that of 17th century Bristol merchant, slave trader and tory politician Edward Colston, whose statue was dumped into the Bristol harbor. Kisuule wrote her poem ‘Hollow’ about the event, and it instantly went viral. 'Jjajja', 'Brick Me' and 'Take Up Space' are other poems that characterize Kisuule's work.

Vanessa Kisuule is the winner of many slam competitions including Bang Said The Gun and the Hammer and Tongue National Slam. Her second collection of poetry, 'A Recipe For Sorcery', can be read as “a recipe book for personhood that changes with the whim of the seasons and the political climate. ... a cathartic explosion, an unspooling of long-harboured resentment and a delving into ugly truths, …a redefinition of what it is to be magical and otherworldly”. 

Kisuule has performed her poetry at renowned venues, including The Royal Albert Hall and festivals such as Glastonbury. Her poems have been featured in The Guardian, the Huffington Post, on the BBC Woman’s Radio Hour and The Guilty Feminist Podcast.  


You came down easy in the end.
The righteous wrench of two ropes in a grand plié.

Briefly, you flew, corkscrewed, then met the ground
With the clang of toy guns, loose change, chains, a rain of cheers.

Standing ovation on the platform of your neck.
Punk Ballet. Act 1.
There is more to come.

And who carved you?
They took such care with that stately pose and propped chin.

Wise and virtuous, the plaque assured us.
Victors wish history odourless and static.
But history is a sneaky mistress.

Moves like smoke, Colston,
Like saliva in a hungry mouth.

This is your rightful home,
Here, in the pit of chaos with the rest of us.

Take your twisted glory and feed it to the tadpoles.
Kids will write raps to that syncopated splash.

I think of you lying in the harbour
With the horrors you hosted.
There is no poem more succinct than that.

But still you are permanent.
You who perfected the ratio.
Blood to sugar to money to bricks.

Each bougie building we flaunt haunted by bones.
Children learn and titans sing
Under the stubborn rust of your name.

But the air is gently throbbing with newness.
Can you feel it?

Colston, I can’t get the sound of you from my head.

Countless times I passed that plinth,
Its heavy threat of metal and marble.

But as you landed, a piece of you fell off, broke away,
And inside, nothing but air.

This whole time, you were hollow.