Liam McCormick’s debut pamphlet, ‘Why Do People Never Snap and Think They’re Buddha? review by Stephen Watt
Exhibiting a veritable flare for developing candid, memorable characters, young Glaswegian poet Liam McCormick’s debut collection of prose and poetry ‘Why do people never snap and think they’re Buddha’ is a blunt, impartial observation of adolescents in the west of Scotland finding their way through onerous school days and the daily evils which they bring.
Already hailed for compelling performances on the stage over the last twelve months, including a performance at The Roundhouse in London alongside George The Poet and Kate Tempest, McCormick’s first foray into the published word hints that both peers have had a strong influence on the Scottish wordsmith’s style and approach, especially so in the case of Tempest’s damaged personalities who feature in her most recent novel ‘The Bricks That Built The Houses’.
Using the four Noble Truths which comprise the essence of Buddha’s teachings, this collection weighs up the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering – from Enlightenment to Nirvana – and offers a visible Scottish voice by means of bright storytelling and considerable patience to move along the poems and stories conjured by McCormick, without meandering into lazy writing and plot. On occasions, unapologetically, there are grammatical and spelling errors along the way, but fortunately these do not distract from captivating stories about “skyscraper weans” such as Michelle, Tam, Yonic and Gregor whose lives twist beyond recognition in the opening pages, addressing issues such as bigotry, paedophilia and statutory rape. McCormick’s rhymes can appear a little obvious and childlike but becomes an effective tool due to the young age of some of the characters in the book:
“When Gregor grows up he’s gon’ae be Batman
Batter all the baddies, save all the lassies
This city he will protect with a towel tied round his neck”.
A short story entitled “Chebs” demonstrates a firm grasp of what makes people tick, insecurities that impede hopes and aspirations, and applies a backbone to the anti-hero of the piece, Daniel, wonderfully described as “skittish and oily like sardine water”, in his efforts to become someone better while his nemesis Lucas pulls every dirty political trick in the book to keep him regressed. There is an inventive in McCormick’s writing in a segment of dialogue using Daniel’s younger brother Barry in discussion with his friends using headsets for Call of Duty, incorporating usernames such as “xxxcfc7xxx” and “kellianne81” which illustrates the violent nature and racism apparent in society.
There is an aggression throughout this collection which does not garner support or opposition but does plead to be recognised. It is a quality which McCormick subtly manages when raising subject such as gang culture and violence, a truly magnificent performance should you ever catch the young poet live, which leaves listeners and readers with a sour taste in their mouths that they have seen this somewhere before – somewhere nearby – somewhere recently. This is heartsore contemporary poetry which never tries to affix a band aid where full surgery is required. The poem “BAY-NIT!” is a standout piece within the ‘Arms In Arms’ segment of the collection, and demonstrates why McCormick has recently been involved with BBC Extra and invited to perform in Amsterdam. Profound Buddhist insights burrow into the mind which indicates a sensitivity is palpable, instantly erasing any knowledge that McCormick is a mere twenty years old:
“War isn’t hell – Hell is being stuck in a room for eternity
with the man you could have been”.
As co-host of spoken word punk night ‘Say Your Prayers’ alongside musician Declan Welsh, it is with a rare ease that one can predict a strong future lies ahead of McCormick. This collection is very much of its time, beautifully aided by stimulating illustrations provided by the 2016 Scottish Poetry Slam winner Iona Lee, which fits the inimitable blueprint which performance poetry publisher Burning Eye Books look for in its artists. Although stripped of the writer’s theatrics on stage, these pages breathe and reek of McCormick’s savage personality. What lacks in rich language it more than equates in articulation and intuitiveness. Go to the pamphlet launch on 3rd August at Glasgow’s Broadcast on Sauchiehall Street and see for yourself – both for the noble truths and the home truths.
Review by Stephen Watt, July 2016
Liam McCormick pamphlet launch event at Broadcast
Join spoken word artist Liam McCormick as he launches his debut pamphlet, ‘Why Do People Never Snap and Think They’re Buddha?’ in Glasgow’s Broadcast on the 3rd of August.
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