Thursday 2 November 2017

blog / About #metoo And About Time Too

About #metoo 
And About Time Too

It is November 2nd. Happy hallows! All Souls Day. All Saints Day. Mexican Day Of The Dead. Dia de los Muertos! May your elders guide you and your fire burn true. May your dead be celebrated with remembrance, love and respect, may this remind you to live your light to its fullest life, with colour and joy. Welcome the dark, the long shadow cast with candles and paper, with light and words, write it all down, burn it and let it go, watch the wind blow and scatter these ashes to the stars and the rising Hunters moon.

Hello. How are you? I haven't written a proper blog for a while but feel I want to take some time out to write this. So much has been happening hasn't it? In my corner of this chapter we share, I have been quite emotional, it is like my brain has too many cupboard doors open at once. I've been up and down, and up and down the UK, admiring the vivid autumn skies, the red and yellow leaves, from over-crowded train carriage windows. I've been performing in tents, theatres, galleries, clubs and pubs, every gig is always so totally different. Last weekend I was blown away to perform at the FilmPoem Festival in Lewes, it was a marriage of film, poetry and performance in a cinema setting. I haven't seen my poetry on the silver screen before. Thank you.

Noticeably the line-ups for my gigs have been predominantly women lately, and I've been feeling a pull and the ties that connect us all. I've been in the company of such beautiful, extraordinary and powerful women, women that I admire and women I am inspired by. In Hebden Bridge I was thrilled and delighted to meet my pen pal the author Deborah Delano for the first time. And in Kings Cross at the NUJ Byline event I spoke on a panel with the magical Bonnie Greer. There are too many Queens to mention and list here, but I thank you so much. This autumn has been a most remarkable and a most unusual time ... but I have niggling feelings and I want to honour these feelings and write a little bit about #metoo.

Have you been reading the #metoo posts? What were your thoughts? How did it make you feel? Are you ok? Is everyone alright? I've been holding back from writing anything about this until now. It seems every day another trigger, another heart break, another sex scandal or abuse allegation, from glitzy Hollywood to sleazy Parliament and much, much closer to home. The vibration is rumbling and the heat is rising. I feel it everywhere, it is plastered all over the newspapers, blogs and social media. #metoo lives in my friends work, my comrades, the poets, the writers, the artists, the people I love, living on the breadline and struggling to make work and be visible. I have been listening to this rumbling distant thunder, but now I feel something much, much bigger is coming this way and about to erupt. This is an ugly, painful zit about to explode pus on the mirror of now and all the toxic  truth will be splurted on our reflection.

I feel that if a country elects a president or prime minister who does not protect or speak up for the women of that country, then the women will be forced to unite and rise up to do the vital work of protecting themselves, themselves. I feel that is at the core of all of this. And I stand in solidarity with all courageous people coming forward and speaking up. Solidarity with people who were posting #metoo I apologise for not writing until now, but I have been here watching, listening, reading and feeling it. I think that this is permitted. We don't have to join in and do all the remembering, all the bravery, all the time. It is like dominoes, I mean where do we start, where do we begin when we write and share this hashtag #metoo 

How do we begin? Where do we begin? Does it start with memories of aunties whispering in the kitchen, the secrets of our families, the nightmares of childhood, the dirty old man down the lane, the flasher in the park, the headmaster that put me over his knee and spanked my naked bum, my teenage rebellion, the drunken mistakes we still blame ourselves for - when looking back now, maybe we were being taken advantage of - the casting couch, those auditions, the advances from bosses and superiors, an inappropriate doctor, the sleazy cab drivers, that strange encounter in that hotel room, those blokes in that train carriage, that man following us home, those kerb crawlers, those times we woke up in the wrong place with our clothes wrong. I don't know where to begin but once I start pulling this thread, I don't know where to stop, and I feel like I'm unravelling. I know I'm not alone in feeling like this right now.

The filthy shadow of #metoo is in my work if I want it there or not. Lately at gigs I find myself hugging people after shows. And being hugged. We are our own raw material. We pour our lives into our writing. As artists we give #metoo other names, we hide it behind comedy, mask it with metaphor, disguise it with fiction... 

Then one day you log onto Facebook or twitter and see everybody tweeting #metoo #metoo #metoo. Questions. So many questions. Suddenly we are universally triggered. Women uniting across the spectrum, as one woman's stalker story triggers somebody's memory of a spiked drink triggers another persons painful recollection of abuse and violence and shame. Shame we let it all go this far, this long, this silent.

I am suspicious of Facebook, I'm suspicious of all social media so I was also suspicious about the intention behind #metoo and where it came from. When we dig a little deeper, its not a new tag but something that was started over a decade ago by US campaigner Tanara Burke. Credit where credits due. During the twitter-storm Tanara Burke said 'It is more than a hashtag' and that's the truest statement of all. 

I can't help but worry that victims of abuse were being asked to do all the emotional work. Again. I've been anxious about the consequences of these electronic confessions and the dire need for more listening, more support and counselling. More education and help for men too. We have just bared witness to a flood of people bravely telling their stories on social media with no safety net, nothing in place to catch them. It is a big thing to admit a thing, to admit you need help, to ask to be heard, to ask for help. I'm so sad and so sorry for all these posts and blogs I've been reading. I'm writing this in solidarity with you all.

Let us amplify and empower women. Support female poets and artists. Follow and read poets like Joelle Taylor, Sabrina Mahfouz, Lisa Luxx, Michelle Fisher, Selina Nwulu, Toria Garbutt, Agnes Torok, Sophie Cameron, Michelle Madsen, Maria Ferguson, Deanna Rodger and Iona Lee to name just a few. Check out UN Women and Nasty Women and events like Sister Sizter and Mother Foucault. Help us sing it louder. If you go to any poetry gig on any night anywhere, you will find a brave human standing on stage with a microphone saying #metoo #westandtogether and #stopthehate in a most compelling way and this is part of the power of poetry I love.

If you want to help, go to a gig and give your energy. Buy books. Put your money where your tweet is and read more women and listen to women and women's work. If you run an event, TV or radio programme, make sure you book more women, women of all colours, shapes and sizes, put women as the headline feature, fund and publish more women, put more women in print, push women forward, pay women properly and equally and on time, embolden women's art and literature, give minority women the prize, stop being afraid of the angry black woman, of the older woman, of the wise woman, of the loud woman, of the quiet woman, it is a time to shine a light on all your sisters. 

Because the more I read these #metoo posts the more my heart breaks and the more I realise we've been saying #metoo for a long time. At every gig, on stage, every night, all over the world, women have been singing a chorus of #metoo through their art, music, poetry and books. What I'm saying is ... Maya Angelou was #metoo Sylvia Plath #metoo Patti Smith #metoo Billie Holiday #metoo Rhianna #metoo and on and on it goes. The list makes me so miserable. 

Almost all of the art I love has a message of #metoo woven into the lyrics or fiction, mirroring the real life lived by my heroines. Just take a look at your bookshelf or vinyl collection and take a moment to remember the life and struggle behind the work. Its exhausting fighting to be heard, it is twice the work for half the pay. This is more than a hashtag. It is a filthy shadow lurking in all of your favourite books and music. It is the courage to put pen to paper. Poetry is a message in a bottle. And this is the saddest song that has been shushed, pushed down and ignored for centuries.

Tanara Burke - "It is more than a hashtag" 


A photographic exhibition of real life female super heroes. The Cosmic Shambles Network are proud to present Cosmic Superheroes, a unique photographic celebration of the superpowers it has taken for women at the forefront of the worlds of Arts and Science to establish themselves as superheroes in their individual fields. Those being photographed for the exhibition include Writer and Comedian Josie Long, Physicist Helen Czerski, Professor of Physics Lucie Green, Author and Poet Salena Godden, Archeologist Brenna Hassett, Social Activist Nimco Ali, Environmental Scientist Tamsin Edwards, Folk-singer and Songwriter Grace Petrie, Science Writer and Presenter Kat Arney, Psychologist and Epidemiologist Suzi Gage, Science Communicator Ginny Smith and Paleobiologist Tori Herridge and more... Exhibition will be at TheConway Hall, London, from December 8th to January 31st 2018


I have two beautiful new books to announce today:

Out now with Burning Eye Books, its a gorgeous anthology featuring a colourful selection of Burning Eye published poets: Hollie McNish, Tony Walsh, Rob Auton, Elvis Mcgonagall, Deanna Rodger, Pete Bearder, Emily Harrison, Paula Varjack and Dan Cockrill and many, many more. I am enjoying reading it, my copy just arrived, it's a bit like a beautiful yellow bumper pack of poets and will make a great stocking filler for anyone and everyone, you'll find it on the Burning Eye page here

I'm thrilled to be invited to join some other others to write for a new book titled Others. It is being crowdfunded and published by Unbound with all net profits going to refugees and stop hate charities. It will be a collection of essays, stories and poetry discussing the theme of being 'Other' I will be joining other others in a spectacular line up that includes Leila Aboulela, Gillian Allnutt, Damian Barr, Noam Chomsky, Rishi Dastidar, Peter Ho Davies, Louise Doughty, Salena Godden, Colin Grant, Sam Guglani, Matt Haig, Aamer Hussein, Anjali Joseph, AL Kennedy, Joanne Limburg, Tiffany Murray, Sara Nović, Edward Platt, Alex Preston, Tom Shakespeare, Kamila Shamsie, Will Storr... If you were a fan of 'The Good Immigrant' you might like this book too. I'm so happy to continue the conversation #Wetickother  - Today we're 52% funded, please make a pledge and help this book get into print by ordering your hardback copy here

In response to transatlantic events, the Frontline Club and Byline Festival are going to New York to launch a US version of their unique festival for independent journalism and free speech on November 6th and 7th. The events will take place at the Edition Hotel, 5 Madison Ave, New York from 6pm to late. They will be hosting a film screening + Q&A of Mosul as the Opening Night on the 6th November 7pm at the Bronx Documentary Center. They will be joined by Byline Festival directors Stephen Colegrave and Peter Jukes, Unbound Publisher John Mitchinson, Byline Festival Poet Laureate Salena Godden, Broadcaster and Writer Hardeep Kohli and many more...  tickets here






photo: Salena Godden and Bishi  
Bishi's new project is a song cycle based on The Good Immigrant 

'BISHI: The Good Immigrant'
Residency at National Sawdust in New York -

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