Feminist Poetry

One funny (aka annoying) thing about identifying as a Feminist and being relatively vocal about it as a poet (like putting on an event with women-only features) is that you get put in a particular box.

The thing is, the whole point of Feminism is to not be put in a box; it’s about dismantling binaries of gender, and dichotomies such as the infamous virgin/whore one. I guess that’s why lots of people have been sharing comment from Maisie Williams about the label “Feminist” – reducing it to the simple catchy phrase that anyone who isn’t Feminist should be labelled “sexist”. I don’t want to go too far into this part, because the statement that is being shared is reductive and denies the nuances of sexism and misogyny, but it also denies the complexity of what Williams was trying to express, which was actually about trolling and shame, rather than Feminism (in fact the idea that women can be just as nasty as men is Feminist). Her words have been taken way too far out of context,now having read the original interview. One critic I have is that by labelling people “sexist”, you’re actually perpetuating the culture of shame (I haven’t read this yet, but I think it will be really eye-opening when I do).

Red tick in box

I’m categorically not interested in arguing about whether we need the label “Feminism” needs to go, or whether it needs a rebrand. It is a type of activism related to gender, acknowledging the systematic oppression of women throughout history. And personally, Feminism needs to strive to be intersectional – how can you care about women if it’s only one type of woman? This means that you listen to people from other oppressed groups and take on board what they say, taking into account some of your own privilege. I strongly believe that patriarchy damages men and boys, and this is something that is very much a part of my Feminism, yet within this an understanding that men and boys have also tended to benefit from the system. If people want to know what Feminism is today, my recommendations are:

bell hooks – everything
Laura Bates – Everyday Sexism
Michael Kimmel – his books, but also him speaking

default

But anyway, I’ve got carried away. What I really wanted to say (moan about) is about the conflict I have between my Feminism being an important part of my identity and yet people sometimes have the trouble to see that this means that I am a person, a human being, and not an object or a number to get a certain quota. It’s important to me to write poetry on Feminism and it’s something I’ve been doing for around 9 years, since I started to take my poetry to the microphone. When I was younger I wrote about being a Feminist who waxes (and a guy in the audience asked me if I was really a Feminist – shock, horror!) and about the beauty industry. Recently, I still write about these kinds of topics, but also about female genital cutting, rape as a weapon of war, and dismantling damaging notions of masculinity. However, when I started writing poetry, it was sickeningly and overwhelmingly about boys. I look back now and I laugh (cringe) because I can’t even remember who the hell I’ve written about so emotively. I mean, I once wrote a poem about a guy I fancied at a club who had a broken arm. I won “Best Loss Poem” at Glam Slam in 2011 with a tale of heart-break, after a string of unrequited love/lust/infatuation. Things aren’t always easy just because you’re in a relationship, so I still have a few sombre poems, but also a whole host of lovey-dovey poems, which are really hard to write well!feminism-is-the-radical-notion-that-women-are-people-quote-1

The point is that about 5% of my material is overtly Feminist, but Feminist lines and themes will slip in because it is such a big part of my being. And let’s not get me started on the comment (insult) that one guy made about my work being “very feminine”. It was the only comment he said, and he spoke with a sneer, out of his judgemental, condescending nose. However, there is also very little I don’t write about as I play with different forms and get inspired by different things. I guess it’s difficult because when you become a brand to market – as sadly you do when you put yourself out there in the creative industries – people want something like “Feminist poet” to cling to. Perhaps what concerns me is how others perceive me, and I worry that there may be any negativity surrounding this. But is this real or imagined? A certain poet has seemed to change their mind about sexism being morally wrong, but it seems to be going well for them. Like, my hashtag below was a joke, yet the “joke” responses that followed weren’t at all funny in my opinion… but then, Feminists have no sense of humour, so… I didn’t know how to respond to someone who is meant to be a peer, and who I expect to be respectful, so a simple sarcastic “lolz” was all I could muster.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 22.20.28

Anyway, I guess I need to remember what Benjamin Zephaniah once told me – that if you are a black woman who is a lesbian and in a wheelchair, you have to write some poems about other things than those aspects of your identity. So, there’s only so many poems I can share about Feminism before people will think that’s all I do! So I guess I need to be aware of what I put out there, and share every part of my writing more widely, not just the more political pieces. Maybe it will make up for all my Feminist ranting. But one thing’s for sure – I will never give up on Feminism or on myself! I’ve been through a tough time recently, but Destiny’s Child and Christina Aguilera and Nirvana have helped me through it! And now I have been writing for so long, but I feel good getting it out! 💪

The Burning House

A burning house made from sound. Five voices salvage all they can from the wreckage. A navigation of all that we lose, find and construct in times when facing the loss of what we consider home and our heritage.

Over the past few months, I have been working on poetry for an Apples & Snakes’ Home Cooking podcast, produced by Post-Everything, and featuring myself and other Burn After Reading poets. It features tracks from Rachel Long, Will Tyas (read by Antosh Wojcik), Sophie Fenella, Carmina Masoliver, Antosh Wojcik. The production is beautiful, with a great balance between the sound of each poet’s voice, and the musical tones throughout it.

Click here to listen.

It also marks about a year since my own production of a Home Cooking podcast for She Grrrowls.

Book Review: Talk you round till dusk by Rebecca Tantony

I received a copy of Rebecca Tantony’s Talk you round till dusk by illustrator Anna Higgie, who I met last year when I performed at BoomTown. You can have a peak inside the book to see the beautiful illustrations here. You can also buy some of her work from the book at her Etsy shop.

talk-you-round-till-dusk-cover_800

I fell in love with this book after reading the first piece and it’s become one of my favourite books from Burning Eye Books.  The pieces flow between flash fiction, poetry and short stories, each piece with strikingly vivid imagery and captivating stories. Slipping between third and first person, placing a ‘you’ between lines of poetry, leaving you wondering where the stories lie between autobiographical and fiction. This use of the lyrical ‘I’ is something I always find fascinating, and enjoy the element of play this offers.

Much of the work deals with relationships and searching, love and travel. At times it’s heart-breaking: ‘he only liked women who felt safe without colour and peroxide to hide behind.’ At other times it’s liberating:

‘What did you do that for?’

‘I did it for me,’ she said, before the wind set her hair free, spilling it across the sky.

From the statement ‘women don’t normally drink pints,’ I could immediately relate. When the next page spoke of Andalucia, I recalled fond memories of Nerja. Tantony managed to capture the feeling of the place, and its pages fuelled my excitement to carry out the same path and live in Spain: ‘Instead of breaking up we had moved to Spain’ hit me with its poignancy, and yet its humour. With orange blossoms showing the direction for discovery at the end, there is a perfect balance of reality and romance.

Different pieces are intercepted with short poetic descriptions and musings, like notes in a travel journal, such as ‘I found your at sunrise and fell in love with a combination of body parts’. The collection takes the reader across the world, from Spain to India, Cyprus, San Francisco, through a Californian road-trip, to Paris, to Mexico, and ending back in Bristol. Through the turbulence of many characters, of wanderings and wondering whether ‘we might not make it back together in one piece’, at the end of one year and the start of a next, bubbling with excitement with the journeys we might go on, it seems apt to end on the sentiment of We are Braver This Way. In it we find the title quotation: ‘I’ll talk you round till dusk and when the final countdown/comes we’ll be dancing, won’t we?’ Whether we get the happy ending we long for is up to you.

Talk you round till dusk is available from Burning Eye Books (2015) for £9.99.

Sex in the Afternoon

In the light of the publication of my review (The Norwich Radical) on the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition, The Institute of Sexology, I am posting a poem I recorded at the museum this summer. It was played at the related event Sex in the Afternoon, which took place at the Southbank Centre and featured Malika Booker, Kei Miller, Warsan Shire and Rachel Mars.

Recordings were played prior to the event, and featured Burn After Reading poets, including: Antosh Wojcik, Belinda Zhawi, Cameron HolleranHarriet Creelman, Katie Byford, Rachel Long and Victoria Anne-Bulley.

The Institute of Sexology continues at the Wellcome Collection until 20th September 2015. Sex in the Afternoon tour dates include Contact in Manchester on 23rd September and West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds on 12th October.

Open Generation – Videos

The video footage of the Open Generation event has been put up now. You can watch the videos here, where you can access content from across the weekend. See below for my performance of ‘Apology for Yarl’s Wood’.

Remember to check out this post to find out more about the poem and organisations connected to the topic.

News: She Grrrowls and Audio Book Radio

She Grrrowls is settled into its new home at Apples & Pears – it’s crazy to think that half a year has gone, and 16th July will be the last event before the summer break (all being well, returning in September). Check out what you missed last week:

In other news, I’m currently working on an anthology of ten poets from the She Grrrowls alumni after receiving funding from Ideas Tap to commission some new poems. I just need a publisher now! I’m hoping to get it out for December to have a launch event.

I’ve also been listening to this radio documentary, with poetry by Kate Tempest after having listened to lots of clips shared by Falling Tree. Again, you can listen to it here:

Speaking of radio, I’ll be having some poems featured on Audio Book Radio. Tune in on Friday 26th June at 2pm, 10pm and Saturday 27th at 6am.

13.08.15 – 17.08.15 – Boom Town

Performing at the Wandering Word. Check out the website here.

18.07.15 – 20.07.15 – Larmer Tree Festival

17.07.15 – 18.07.15 – Lovebox Festival

Apples & Snakes : The Writing Room

Legendary spoken word promoters Apples and Snakes present an epic line-up of raising stars, and new voices from the Writing Room programme share the stage with the most dynamic wordsmiths the capital has to offer. Poetry with bite.

Roundhouse – The Last Word, with Kid Glove

Spoken word, storytelling and live performance on the road…

The Roundhouse is a breeding ground of spoken word talent, producing some of the best poetry stars on the scene today. Join us for an afternoon of fresh emerging talent, featuring new voices and rising stars. Not to be missed!

KIDGLOVE_FINAL1-01

04.07.15 – The Fling Festival