“Fat chance you’ll ever break out of here”


Formely is a collection of poems infused with images created by Tamar Yoseloff and Vici MacDonald. The photos are a collection of pictures from different places in London taken by MacDonal, which Yoseloff then added poetry to. The poems create a space around the pictures and bring meaning to each of the photos that were taken.  The speakers created in the poems embody a variety of different types of people, rather than following one character through all these spaces. Yoseloff evokes a plethora of different speakers, both ones who are partaking in actions created in these spaces and ones who are making a commentary of the actions. In “Quickie Heel Bar,” Yoseloff creates a speaker that makes a commentary to women who are trying to coerce male attention by making themselves look like sexual objects. The speaker states “Ladies, here’s the shit: / your skirt’s so tight you can barely walk, / your stillies clack clack like a ticking clock” (“Quickie Heel Bar” 1-3). The speaker believes that women should not degrade themselves by wearing clothes that make them uncomfortable just to feel worthy of a male’s attention. The backhanded comments made throughout the poem allude to the idea that these women are too smart to be dressing and acting in these manners just to fit in. However, in “Limehouse Cut” the speaker then embodies a person who has been hurt by a significant other  and feels the need to try to live up to something in order to impress that person. The speaker states, “I haunt abandoned lots, urinal stalls, / anywhere that bears your mark (the flick / of the switch and then the dark, the quickie fuck)” (“Limehouse Cut” 3-5). In this poem, the reader sees the opposite side of the field that “Quickie Heel Bar” was looking at. The speaker is hurt and “stuck / in the past” (“Limehouse Cut” 8-9), instead of feeling empowered in this space the speaker feels belittled and trapped. By speaking from the perspective of both these characters, Yoseloff is showing that we all have the chance to embody these different types of people, the hurt and the powerful, but it appears to depend on the mindset. However, many of the poems do tend to embrace the feeling of being trapped within a space. In “Whitechapel,” for example, the speaker states that “the trees imprison me, rigid wardens. / I match them in my stillness” (1-2) and goes on to states “they carry omens / in their leaves. I cannot leave” (4-5). The need to break free of spaces shows that we attribute spaces to certain mindsets. However, London’s ability to be broken apart and placed back together is echoed through the structure of the poems, Yoseloff portrays this “through the recycling of lines from the first 13 sonnets in the final poem, [showing] the transformative power of the city” (“Town Called Malice – Formerly by Tamar Yoseloff and Vici MacDonald” John Field). The ability to change speakers, perspectives, and stances of power are echoed in the city’s ability to fall apart and be repaired into something greater.

Interesting Links:

Reviews and quotes on Formerly

Some of Vici MacDonald’s other work

Formerly exhibition


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