TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!!!- ‘Me Too: Poetry Anthology’

Hello and welcome to Tomboy Bookclub! Todays’ book is not for the faint-hearted, but it will always be important, even if all the media attention surrounding its topic does disintegrate soon… it is ‘#MeToo: A Woman’s Poetry Anthology rallying against sexual assault.’

You would have to be living under a rock not to know by now what ‘#MeToo’ means, but for those who want a little clarification: #MeToo is a hashtag originally created by Tanara Burke (not the famous Hollywood advocates of the movement, important though their contributions raising awareness have been) for people who have suffered from sexual assault and harassment to share their experiences without shame or indignation, to rightfully expose those who have done wrong. Speaking out and reclaiming respect for the downtrodden to remedy a problem that for pretty much the whole of history has been swept under a rug, something that has been made to feel like a part of life ‘you have to get on with’.

This book collects poetry from a whole host of women poets, encapsulating myriad experiences and traumas in a united aim to confront horrific power imbalances, creating hope for a world less riddled with pain. Although focusing on the experiences of women and girls mainly (of course the reality is not clean-cut, woman= victim man= abuser, but to save agro can we all just accept that the majority of women will suffer harassment in ways that the majority of men will just never experience in the same scale or intensity), this anthology is not exclusionary. From childhood to adulthood, amongst the sheer number of different stories coping with pain through art- there is going to be a poem that tugs at your heart strings, whether you’ve ever had to say ‘me too’ or not.

Each section speaks to a different aspect of assault, whether in abuse’s preludes or aftermaths to try to give full scope to the long-lasting and immediate effects that sexual assault can have on a person. Children slowly learning not to trust strangers, girls harassed on their journeys home in school uniform, grown women shirking from husbands and cars that drive too close- it is harrowing how ubiquitously, how insidiously assault rears its head repeatedly over the course of so many lives.

Poetry speaks of before, when the world was trusted, and evil was a mere blot you were told existed but had never seen or felt with your own body. And poetry speaks of during- the helplessness, the pain, fear and worry- ‘why didn’t I fight?’ ‘Does this mean I wanted it?’ ‘It can’t be so bad if it left no bruise or cut?’ Then aftermath: the constricting and contradictory longings of love and to be alone, trying to heal and forget but being unable to let go. How fear stays in the body- no man slowing down the car to ask for directions will ever be an innocent encounter again.

The scope of this book is not limited to the most abhorrent of crimes either (though too many a poem forces it to the front just how wide the scale of child and domestic abuse actually is). Some poems speak of silent evil, made so familiar and ingrained deeply into what we are taught to expect, so that when the blow falls no hurt comes after. This book makes you realise that many people supress the past, hide it away so they no longer classify what happened as what it is- abuse. There are women reflecting back on their pasts and realising with a shiver that it is them too, after all these years batting hurt away like a fly at the dinner table.

I don’t want to list the number and severity of the stories the poetry tells- that makes these poets no longer in charge of how their stories are told, it degrades the thought that went into making these poems. So I will just reiterate again: these poems will make you harden up inside, cry, break down and want to howl.

But, it doesn’t end with an acceptance of cruelty and gendered violence as being forever. The book ends with hope, and that is what makes it most important as a tool for healing and learning. It celebrates the resilience and beauty of all those who can now hold their heads high in survival. All those different people, with different voices and stories and emotions, all helping each other to live a life unburdened by the self-hating insomnia cruelty causes.

And, the ‘#MeToo Anthology’ actually does help make a difference to the lives of survivors like those whose poetry is in the book. All proceeds from the book go towards helping Women’s Aid, a UK charity helping women suffering under domestic and sexual abuse.

I hope I have written clearly enough to communicate how necessary I feel this book is to educate and inspire action towards helping people. ‘MeToo’ demonstrates how it could be anyone, anyone you know, who could suffer next from this epidemic; and which will show no signs of dying out unless we continue to hear, acknowledge and believe the people who need our help.

All the poems in this anthology are so gut-wrenchingly honest and beautiful for it, despite the pain they came from that I wish I could post them here. But, as I can’t I have chosen one that really stood out to glitter in the blurry tears that kept falling when reading. Please do try to get a hold of a copy, and please always try to remember this anthology’s lesson: Don’t let the evil of this world keep you quiet, when somebody else needs your voice to help birth their own xoxox

Exile

Love as a yes to the world
is difficult when I am
besieged by fingers and thighs
and strong strangling arms.

I am bedraggled by the touch
of desire without invite
and I can choose to stay here
in full body armour,

Hard-eyed, light guttering,
here where pleasures are
but at a price, or I can
unpack my boots and go,

With a map and a plan
and a bag of good books
to where hills and sky and
sea collide unseen,

Go to where the snow falls
untouched but for where
my feet tread.
And yet, to stand alone

Under endless steely sky-
what use inner light then
if there is no one,
no one for miles, to see?

– Rachel Buchanan

GRUMPY OLD WOMEN

If you know me (and if you do- aren’t you blessed!?!) then you’ll know there is one occupation of mine that takes up a rather large chunk of the limited amount of sunlight we get in this United Kingdom of Shitheads: I rant. A lot. Yet, my country (England) is known for being very, painstakingly polite… whilst decimating cultures and livelihoods across the globe. As you may sense, this political cultivation of elegance and grace has not caught on in the skull of M.G.B. I do not understand why we find farting in public so horrifying (remember the doctrine- ‘wherever you may be let your winds blow free’), yet for around 400 years we found the public degradation of a whole continent perfectly respectable?Why- Lord Nelson was so polite and patriotic in his support of slavery that we have given him a fucking 50ft. column to celebrate his militaristic racism! Long live that good old sense of propriety!

We like to believe that Britishness is all cricket whites on a summer green playing tiddlywinks with Annabelle, sipping on Pims for the glory of  ‘democracy’ whilst training our beloved pet dogs to curtsy. In reality, all we have is sun-burnt football hooligans with union jack scarves tied on-top of bald patches whilst they spittle their pints all over the place, belching about THOSE FUCKING (*insert racist/ misogynistic ect… intolerant stereotyping of a group here*). Basically: England and it’s history of (white) people haven’t got a fucking clue. I know I haven’t got a fucking clue either- but at least I don’t pretend to know with a silver spoon up my bottom; and if I do sound cocky in my announcement of ignorance, so be it.

I know that ranting doesn’t change the world (let us see the Suffragette wisdom- ‘deeds not words’), but it’s at least a bloody place to start isn’t it? It strikes me that the white patriarch in his tweed can rant and rave all he wants in the golf club man-cave about whatever new minority is causing his stocks to collapse; or, on the flip side of Britishness, the tired everyman in Wetherspoons who will happily drink German beer, but when faced with the prospect of multiculturalism and difference wants a Tardis trip back to D-Day so he can once again defend our precious cliffs.

It annoys me that people rant about the wrong things, because ranting for a good purpose can be a very cathartic and inspiring action. I begin my tirades, and I see a look of quizzical glee in their eyes: ohhh haha doesn’t she get her knickers in a twist?!? Or even worse, the dead-eyes that say: you’re wasting your breath. You are a small fish in a big pond, give up and join the rest of us in our day-time TV acquiescence towards the suffering of others.

WHY ARE MEN ALLOWED TO COMPLAIN AND NOT BE TOLD THEY ARE NAGGING? WHY AM I MADE TO FEEL SO FUTILE AND POWERLESS WHEN TRYING TO DISCUSS PROBLEMS THAT NEED TO BE CHANGED? WHY IS INJUSTICE ALLOWED TO BE SILENTLY ACCEPTED BY LITERALLY EVERY FACET OF SOCIETY, BUT WHEN SOMEBODY SPEAKS UP- IT IS THEM WHO IS IN THE WRONG?!?!

However, there is one person who saturates themselves with as much verbal ammunition to rain upon the barminess of the world as myself. My grandma. Okay- whilst her specialties include the woes of road potholes and carpet stains, rather than my métier consisting of the structural oppressions and aggressions of our white, abelist, heterosexual, phallogocentric, imperial, fatphobic, nationalistic patriarchy in the west (i’m getting riled up, can you tell?). Together we are the grumpy women of breakfast. Presiding over the Guardian and bowls porridge tutting away and adding our own commentary to the morning news. We listen to each other, and I think that’s the point. Yes, the world incessantly depresses us all as we collectively melt the ice caps and let migrants die with not one government actually giving a damn; but at least being able to say so without fear of being ostracized or labelled the family communist next Christmas dinner makes it all feel a little more manageable.

I don’t wanna be the grim reaper of news when I walk into a room and depress people with my rants, but I do find apathy, or even outright poo-pooing from others is a whole lot less depressing than biting my tongue the whole time and hoping it will all go away. I just hope these words don’t stay words, but that one day they will be a part of the plan for us all to help one another a bit more; without yawning half-way through some-ones dissection of whatever thing it is they’re trying to wrestle with for the better.

Pocket Revolutionaries

Survival is difficult. I don’t mean Bear Gyrlls macho survival skills eating maggots or sleeping in a goat carcas. I mean the endurance of being able to wake up every day without instantly loosing hope in the world we inhabit as soon as your eyes scan the news. As soon as all the misogynistic/ racist/ classist/ general unwarranted cruelties all come to light, and you’re told “That’s just the way things are“.

I know that worrying about abuse and violence doesn’t prevent people suffering, but thinking is a start and the more you imagine the lives of others, the more unfathomable it seems to be able to ignore all the pain. Not imagining in some wierd voyeuristic, self-righteous way; I just mean, the more you think of others, the more potential for inciting a change of attitudes- which then hopefully leads to a decrease in the shittery that is ‘human nature’. 

This morning I woke up and did the mundane task of reading the newspaper with my orange juice ( I sound so bougie lol- its just my grandma likes to get the good old broadsheets still in their big flapping wings of paper). There was Windrush. There was the murder of Kim Wall (may you forever rest in peace xoxo). There were ambulance staff being sexually assulted and people in Nicaragua killed. The world is so beautiful because of it’s diversity; but this diversity and the incessantly shifting natures behind the diversity also means a huge pick’n’mix of the absolute worst parts of what we are capable of too. Reading all the stories didn’t armour me a thicker skin of acceptance, I didn’t try to make it make sense: I cried.

Crying is seen as something wimpy and that you should only do if absolutley nobody can see. Nope. Not for me. There’s nothing strong in denying, of repressing terror and fear in the name of blind comfort. Crying just means you care, a lot- and caring a lot is definatley something this world needs more of. But to return to my previous point: worrying incessantly does nothing to help those people whose lives you are invested in wanting to help. Putting obvious activism aside (‘obvious’= joining political parties, starting your own grass roots groups, protesting, donating to causes and signing petitions/ nagging politicans), I would like to propose another kind of activism that helps one cope with the world’s miseries without becoming an angry, detached, disillusioned shell: pocket revolution. The small, yet so so so necessary acts of kindness and understanding  that make the world- well, at least your patch of it- better.

POCKET REVOLUTION- my grandma hugging, not telling me off for being ‘too involved‘ with what I see in the world when I cry to the morning paper. The kind man who gave me a pink geranium after grandma and I admired his Tulips. It is smiling when the dogs cover me in dirty river water, not shouting at them. The mother whose pram I helped carry down the tube steps despite rushing crowds and the little girl who I made smile when I was feeding pidgins. Basically: not being afraid of strangers. Not being afraid to be childish and silly, or afriad to be the first one to say sorry. It is complimenting strangers and smiling because if Donald Trump/ Amber Rudd/ Theresa May/ Kim Jong Twat can hate people for no reason, then I am going to fucking try my very hardest to love people for no reason other than the fact you breathe and feel and eat and shit pretty much the same as me; but with a lot of interesting details I have no idea about (and that I would love to get to know over a cup of tea sometime).

I know I probably sound very righteous and I haven’t come up with any break through political rhetoric to destroy the montser of patriachal imperial capitalism… But I tried. And that is the point. We should at least try to try.

I was at the train station reading some poems after the newspaper, and the one I want to share is another example of what I would call pocket revolution by a Ghanaian poet, Joe De Graft called ‘An Un-African Breakfast’. His positivity made me feel stronger, and so I would love to spread the loveeee further. (it also kinda reminded me of my boyfriend in how happy Joe sounded despite all the world’s various brands of cruelty- both he and my luv are definatley pocket revolutionaries) xxoxoxoxoxoxox

AN UN-AFRICAN BREAKFAST 

So here I am this morning
Early in the Kitchen.

The aroma of fresh coffee on the boil,
Nose-filling aroma of good fresh coffee
on the boil;
And this kitchen is good to be in
And good to hear the browning water
babble-bubbling inside the glass-trap
head of the percolator;
And the good wife still asleep in her vono bed
Dreaming good dreams, I hope,
Of me!

All night the tummy hasn’t been well,
Running like it wanted nothing more
to do with me for eating what I
do not know-
All night a running tummy;
Till at last out of weariness
I drop into oblivion between 4 and 5
Quite unknowing –
Deep oblivion
Sweet as feathers…

Then crash out of nowhere
The white day comes bursting in
Through frosted louvres…..

And its good to be alive!

Good indeed to be alive,
So thank we god
For everything,
And the myriad sparrows
Chirrupping in the fresh morning sun outside
While the percolator bubbles……

(The poem is quite long, I can’t type the whole poem out but I highly highly highllllyyyy recommend reading his poetry, they are soul food)

Volaility of feathers

I am a volatility of feathers- one day sweet as apricots freshly brimming up with ruddiness on the twig and branch; Smiling is for granted, even with no make up and a lil bloat on; without having spoken properly to another person, be they friend, family or bachelor- on these day’s life is magnificent and mine. The sadness of this volatility is it’s inert nature: things cannot remain so.

Other times, simple acts of willed neglicence or bluff, intended cruelties- which most people flounce off with an expletive and distraction- cause me to imagine approximatley 100 reasons of said blow’s cause; the nature of the cause; how this cause is intertwined with and affects other causes etc etc. AKA- I cry and get mad at myself for uncomprehended reasons.

I feel like this blog has no poetry to it; I want to write about important, universal issues and not just focus on bitty, repetitive autobiography the whole fucking time. But it is late, I am hungry and simply want to savour this day where I have willed survival and not Sorrow’s feathers.

I watched the T.E.D Talk, “The gentle power of highly sensitive people” by Elena Herdieckerhoff and it made me feel so elated to know my propensity to cheshire cat smile at the sight of my dogs excited for walks, in tandem with unfathomable hours of thinking and crying and blaming ghots some more, is not a weakness. I felt like Billy Pilgrim’s long lost sister- “And so it is.” The fragility of things and my incessant hankerings for answers that justify tenderness are no joke. Hale-fucking-luja!!!!

Rambling and waffling are beyond the realms of energy right now, so I am just going to end on a little quote (So much for exclusive poetry- haha) by another highly woke and wonderful woman, Minna Salami-

“Only a person who sees and values the humanity in everyone can be a revolutionary, because only a person who sees and values the humanity in everyone can do so about themselves.”