Sunday, 11 February 2018

       Three Female poets you should be reading

In the era of Trump, a society that needs the #MeToo campaign and the unnerving anxiety The Handmaid's Tale brings, poetry is the art form that bites back. Take singer-songwriter Hasley's powerful speech at the NYC Women's March for example. Poetry is successful in tackling the taboo subjects that people find difficult to discuss because there's no shying away from it, it demands to be heard. 

Below are 3 of my favourite female poets in all of their gorgeous glory. Whether you're a keen reader of poetry or not, you're bound to find a piece of yourself hiding between their lines.

Warsan Shire

I've been in love with Warsan Shire's poetry since I started writing. She is best known for her work on BeyoncĂ©s Lemonade and her poems speaking out for refugees and victims of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). If you haven't already heard of her, you're missing out. Shire was born in Kenya to Somali parents and raised in London. She explores what it's like to be laced between two cultures eloquently, capturing intricate and detailed stories of women and their experiences. Her collection, Teaching My Mother how to Give Birth (2011) is bold and beautiful, it tackles many of the taboos in both Somali and British culture with grace. Below is a video of her reading the poems Ugly, The House, The Diet, What We Own and Conversations About Home at the Deportation Centre.

You can find Warsan on Twitter @Warsan_Shire

Pascale Petit

I came across Pascale's work when searching for inspiration at University. With seven successful collections tucked under her belt, Pascale is a master of metaphor. Her poems are often imaginative and mythical; blurring the edges of reality and fantasy. Her latest collection, Mama Amazonica (2017) is set in a psychiatric hospital for endangered species in the Amazon. It tells the story of Pascale's mentally ill mother, morphing her into a series of exotic animals and flowers. I admire Pascale's ability to tackle her personal trauma and turn it into art. Below is a poem from the collection, posted on Pascale's website.

From Mama Amazonica

Picture my mother as a baby, afloat
on a waterlily leaf,
a nametag round her wrist –
Victoria amazonica.
There are rapids ahead
the doctors call ‘mania’.
For now, all is quiet –
she’s on a deep sleep cure,
a sloth clings to the cecropia tree,
a jaguar sniffs the bank.
My mother on her green raft,
its web of ribs, its underside of spines.
I’ll sing her a lullaby,
tell her how her quilted crib
has been known to support
a carefully balanced adult.
My newborn mama
washed clean by the drugs,
a caiman basking beside her.

Cecilia Knapp
Cecilia Knapp is a writer and performer from London. As a successful spoken word poet, she is mesmerising, her rhythms are smooth and seemingly effortless. Her poems take the ordinary and highlight the beauty in the smaller details of everyday life, pull you in and magnify the intricacies of human interaction. 

As well as a poet, Cecilia is also a performer in theatre, runs creative workshops for young people and works with the charity CALM to raise awareness of mental health. Below is her poem Bodies that was turned into a video project with Jungle Magazine. 

You can find more info about Cecilia on her website.

If you have any female poet recommendations, feel free to share them in the comments section.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Sunday Poem

application for the position of abdelhalim hafez's girl

By Safia Elhillo (From The January Children)

i go quiet for days     i turn the colour of mirrors
i turn the colour of smoke     men tell me sometimes
that blue becomes me     when i answer my voice
is hoarse from disuse  i am afraid of my body & the ways
that it fails me   i faint   a woman on the subway platform
catches me   floating into the tracks   i become the colour
blue     i don't like to be touched     i wonder why
more people     have not been kidnapped by taxi drivers
white men ask me     to say their names in arabic
ask where i'm     [really from]     i am six months
returned from sudan     henna fading to look like burns
dusted up my arms     i bleed & can't stop bleeding
i speak & my mouth     is my biggest wound
every language     is a borrowed joke     i catch myself
complimenting strangers   on their english   i am six months
returned from incense smoke   to soften the taste of river water
incense burned   to avert the evil eye   i see a possessed 
woman scream   when a prayer is read   her eyes the color
of smoke     & mine is a story older than water

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