Victoria Bean is an artist and a member of the Arc Editions group. Her work has been collected by the Tate, the V&A, and shown at the Courtauld Institute of Art, while her poems have appeared in The Spectator and Poetry Review Salzburg. She currently works in a voluntary capacity with Young Offenders.
She spent a year in Horseferry Road Magistrate’s Court in central London, recording in verse the high-drama and low-comedy of the English justice system.
Caught (Smokestack Books, 2011) is her first collection – a unique take on everyday life in a busy courtroom and its cast of thieves, drunks, kerb-crawlers and dealers who come before the bench each day in despair, bewilderment and indifference. All human life is here – the strong and the weak, the hopeless and hapless, the users and losers, the innocent and guilty, the banged-up and the free. She lives in London.
“Incisive, witty, compassionate and captivating, Victoria Bean’s poems are short, sharp shocks that capture the human face of crime and punishment. A gem.”
– David Jenkins
“… a humbling & poignant collection, & that rare thing: poetry of witness, poetry as social document.”
– Alan Morrison, The Recusant
“This is a remarkable book, breathtaking in its artistry and its clarity.”
– Richard Price
You said the f word you said the c word
you said you were on your way to Wembley
you said I’m hard, I’m hard, I could have you
you said you don’t remember any of it
Boy with a knife
If you walk out of here today
arm yourself only with these words:
keep your freedom.
Keep watching those cartoons
your father says you like.
Stand up please.
We can’t send you to jail
just because you’re hungry
and it’s cold outside,
however, you will stay in custody
until you’ve had your lunch.
The benefits of a real fire
The judge says you’re on a hopeless, homeless spiral
but when you set that bin alight
you had some warmth
and for a moment
a bit of a welcoming glow.
Fifteen years on crack
cheekbones sculpted by
sweet pink crystals still dissolving
the plump padding of his youth
He uses car stereos as currency
but wants a second chance
for the last time,
for the hundredth time.
Muie and Mosh in the public gallery
with their post code surnames
gouged and scrawled
in vandals’ Braille
a universal hand writes
we were here, we were here, we were here,
and names get carved in sharp angled letters
because cursive font is tricky
where the wood grain won’t give.
I’ll stand if you don’t mind
I don’t want this man to represent me
I want to represent myself
I’ll remain standing
if you don’t mind.
from Caught (Smokestack Books, 2011).