Posts Tagged ‘female poets’

You should read this: Hallelujah for 50ft Women

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Content note: discussion of sex essentialism.

If you know me at all, then you know I like a good women-only space. I’m currently teaching on the brilliant all-female fiction writing course Write Like A Grrrl!; Making It Home was an almost entirely all-female endeavour; and although I love working with folks of all genders, there’s something a bit special about getting a room full of self-identifying women together and seeing what they can achieve.

For that reason, I am pretty excited to have a poem in the brand new Bloodaxe anthology Hallelujah for 50ft Women, which is edited by the [in]famous female performance troupe Raving Beauties. It’s a pretty stunning looking book, as I’m sure you’ll agree — I’m loving the purple colour, and the typefaces!

The theme of the book is ‘women talking about their relationship(s) with their bodies,’ and my poem, ‘High School,’ is kind of about body dysmorphia, kind of about female competition, but also kind of about the fact that I knew a bunch of really bitchy girls when I was a teenager. I was pretty gobsmacked that it got picked, and even more gobsmacked when I saw it included alongside such truly legendary poets as Lucille Clifton, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Sharon Olds and Grace Nichols. Also in there are Warsan Shire, who’s everywhere at the moment and seemingly exceptionally cool, and Patricia Lockwood, of the brilliant — and mega-viral — poem Rape Joke.

I’d really encourage you to buy this book for the truly wide-ranging variety of poetic voices therein. The poets in here are some talented women and their work deserves reading. However, I feel I must apologise to my trans, genderqueer and non-binary friends for some of the content from the introduction. I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be read as essentialism, but I did feel a bit queasy about the “all women have c*nts” overtones in there. I mean, yay for female bodies, and yay let’s not be squeamish about them! But had it been my introduction to write? I’d've been underlining the important fact that not all women’s bodies look or behave in the same ways, or have the same bits.

Happily, I believe the poems themselves make it only too clear that women’s bodies are all different, and all awesome — in fact, they’re awesome in their differentness to one another. Have a read! You might well discover a new favourite female poet!

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Participate!: all-female poetry slam to celebrate International Women’s Day 2012

Monday, March 5th, 2012

No More Nice Girls

International Women’s Day is fast approaching, and I for one didn’t want to be caught unawares this year with nothing to do celebrate (like I was last year — the centenary year! — when all I managed was this post). So, I started thinking: what would I really like to do to celebrate International Women’s Day 2012? I reasoned that I should definitely keep up my tradition of giving as big a chunk of money as I can afford to a women’s charity… and that gave me an idea. Why not do something to encourage other folk to give their money to a women’s charity, too?

And thus, the International Women’s Day 2012 Edinburgh All-Female Slam (catchy, no?) was born.

At first, I wanted to hold a poetry slam simply because I know they never fail to get a good crowd through the door, and that would mean more pennies in the bucket for whatever charity I decided to pick (also, I just love a good slam). But then I realised that a poetry slam might also be a good place to raise awareness about women’s issues within the poetry community.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that female poets have it as bad as, say, the ladies in the photo above. Thanks to the pioneering work of ladies like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Carol Ann Duffy, Liz Lochhead and many more, these days being a female poet is considered no weirder, really, than being a male poet. Female writers — although we still have a lot of catching up to do — no longer have to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to write, publish, perform and be reviewed. Most of us, I think, just get on with it.

What’s more, my local literary community plays host to a vibrant performance poetry scene that boasts some of the UK’s finest female performance poets: among them Jenny Lindsay, Sophia, Laura Hainey, and numerous others. We’re in Scotland, of course, so things aren’t as intersectional as they are in, say, Leeds or London… and they’re perhaps not as intersectional as they potentially could be. But there’s still a lot of poetry buzzing around and a lot of ladies getting involved.

However: Scotland’s poetry slam scene does still seem to be dominated by men. Our current Scottish slam champion is Young Dawkins, and when I try to think of the really great performance poets Scotland has to offer, I find myself coming up with far more male names than female ones (to mention but a few, Scotland can boast the vocal stylings of Bram Gieben, Colin McGuire, Kevin Cadwallender, Harlequinade, Robin Cairns, Jim Monaghan, Tickle McNicholl, Tim Turnbull and Harry Giles). Furthermore, slam itself could be described as somewhat chauvinistic: the focus is on competition, on “knocking out” one’s opponents in “head-to-head” finals. What’s more, slam has gained a bit of an unfair rep among non-slammers as being all about shouting the loudest or rapping the fastest.

Understandably, this view of Scottish slam puts a lot of performers — and mostly, it seems, ladies — off. I know many a female poet who just “won’t do slams.” And I think this is extremely sad, given that a) slam is a super cool movement with a huge and growing audience and b) Scottish performance poetry is crying out for a greater variety of voices, and is, in my experience, always friendly and welcoming.

Therefore, this slam is about faciliating the female performance poetry that I know is out there. I’ve seen all the poets on our spectacular bill performing at open mics and at traditional stand-up readings (and sometimes at “quiet” or “friendly” slams), and each time I’ve thought, THE SCOTTISH SLAM SCENE NEEDS YOU, LADY! Contrary to what several poisonous detractors (now blocked, don’t worry) on the event’s Facebook wall have somehow decided, this event IS NOT about bashing men and it IS NOT about favouritism towards women. It is about welcoming twelve exciting performers a little further into the performance poetry scene, and providing them with the encouragement they need to get out there and take the world of slam by storm.

If you like the sound of a FRIENDLY, ALL-INCLUSIVE slam featuring poetry from both male AND female performers; if you like the sound of raising a ton of money for Scottish Women’s Aid while sitting in a pub and listening to some fine verse; if you like the sound of discovering some new poets you never knew existed but whose work is guaranteed to blow your tiny mind… well then, get yourself to:

THE BANSHEE LABYRINTH
on
TUESDAY 6TH MARCH
at
7PM (doors) for 7.30PM (start)
and
BRING YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR APPLAUSE, AND YOUR GENEROUS DONATIONS

Check out our Facebook event for more details.

SEE YOU THERE!

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