It’s that time of year again! One of my favourite days of the year – International Women’s Day. I love this day because my social media feeds are crammed with amazing content, quotes, articles, pictures and personal tributes to women of the world. I also notice that each year this content becomes more intersectional and inclusive which fills me with hope for the future of feminism.
Our IWD post from last year (read it here) reminded us that even in the poetry world, equality and platforms for women are still too far and few between. We have been spoilt this year by Verve Poetry Festival and it’s mindful and representative line up and by the fact that so many of our poets speak from a place of struggle, from a social disadvantage – making them powerful and integral now more than ever to the commentary of our time. I am privileged enough to see some of these voices clearing in throats, whispering, exploring and eventually booming out from a stage or place of performance. The real perk of my job is to then to provide a way for these words to reach others.
With that in mind I’d like to share some of my favourite poetry things by self-identifying women over the past twelve months.
Jemima’s award-winning spoken word show incorporates music, movement and poetry into an energetic story of identity, relationships and choice. I saw this show at Milk @ The Tobacco Factory last year and was moved by the moments of fragility which crept through such strong delivery. Melody has wound down now but has the potential to be revived on demand.
Agnes Török – #ReclaimTheInternet
There are so many things that Agnes has done in the last year that I could talk about here but I think this poem made an impression on me as a child of the internet age. Internet abuse, threats and intimidation are more common than you think, especially if you are outspoken. This brave piece commissioned by the Dangerous Women Project really shows Agnes at her most passionate and it is inspirational.
Paula Varjack – Show Me The Money
Paula Varjack is a woman who gets about the spoken word scenes, in several different countries, in several ways. She is a self-employment machine and her solo show Show Me The Money explores those brave questions that some of us will never ask ourselves like, how do I make money from my art? What is it worth? How do I maintain a lifestyle with an unpredictable income? Paula has spent the last year developing and touring this show and it’s coming to the Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol on Wednesday 14th March. See the above poster for future dates of Show Me The Money. For International Women’s Day she is appearing at Polari & Women of the World at the Southbank Centre, celebrating LGBT writers.
Cecilia Knapp – Finding Home
I recently lost my best friend, and shortly afterwards I was sent a manuscript for Cecilia Knapp’s poetry show Finding Home for Bx3. At first I didn’t think I would be able to get through it as Finding Home is about losing a close loved one and there were parts of it that got stuck in my throat and made it hard to swallow but I persevered to the end and found it incredibly cathartic. Cecilia is a beautiful story teller, patient and considered enough to create something like Finding Home. She is performing the show at the Stratford Circus in London tonight where you can buy a copy of the show script. She will also be at Blah’s Big Weekend next week with the show and a writing workshop (details here).
SEXY – Vanessa Kisuule
SEXY is a new show from the excellent Vanessa Kisuule in which she explores what sexiness is and how contemporary notions of sexy conflict with our relationships with our bodies. In a time of heightened sensitivity towards women’s bodies and sexualisation Vanessa’s show is bold, unabashed and exactly what we all need right now – to know that it is okay to smash the patriarchy and feel good whilst doing it! See SEXY at Spokes Amaze! in Exeter on 30th April (details here).
Milk Poetry was set up in Bristol a few years ago by local poet Malaika Kegode who aside from being the host for Apple and Snakes’ Spokes Amaze in Exeter, also took part in the Roundhouse young poets, was a runner up in the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam and has her first collection Requite out with us this summer. Malaika’s far reaching influence on spoken word has helped to curate one of the nicest, most welcoming and most diverse poetry nights in Bristol. Milk has three elements; it’s monthly slam with a headliner, a monthly collaboration with Raise the Bar called ‘Spotlight’ and Milk @ the Tobacco Factory which showcases touring and critical acclaimed poets to larger audiences. Milk continually hosts excellent quality spoken word and a diverse line up. The next Milk event is at the Tobacco Factory 23rd April with Hollie McNish and Inua Ellams.
So happy #IWD to all the self identifying women, to all those who face discrimination because of their gender, race, sexual preferences, class and abilities. To all women who suffer from bad mental health and invisible illnesses that make it hard to fight for what they want and need. To all the single mothers, to all the hard working, compassionate mothers, to the mothers that are still gathering their strength and the all the women who are just biding their time. To all the women ridiculed for their own choices, for deciding what to do with their own bodies. To all the girls around the world who are oppressed by their country, patriarchy, religion, fathers and families, who are married off, made to make babies, made to sell themselves. To all the women who were born into the wrong body, who are told they are wrong. To those fleeing war, sleeping rough and escaping abuse. To the women who are constantly undervalued and told their strengths are weaknesses. For all the women and girls everywhere who struggle or fight or both. I am thinking about you today, I hope equality comes to you.