Category Archives: Poetry

Do you Love Yourself Enough? By Olivia Atkins

Valentine’s Day is typically a celebration of love. What better way to celebrate this national holiday than to attend an event that stresses the importance of loving yourself?

London’s One Billion Rising did just that. On Friday afternoon at London’s iconic Trafalgar Square, a stage was set up ready to host an array of inspirational speakers and powerful musicians.

Lynne Franks, coordinator of the London event, introduced herself and unveiled the day’s programme, adding that the event was “owned by no one and directed by everyone”. A crowd quickly gathered around the stage, keen to participate and listen to the empowering words being spoken.


Following on from the introduction, Leyla Hussein took to the microphone. Ms Hussein is a psychotherapist and a self-professed survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM). She used her personal and professional experiences to talk with the crowd. She claims that 66,000 British women have undergone FGM and that over 20,000 girls are currently at risk of being sent abroad for circumcision. Ms Hussein was born into a family where FGM was important and considered culturally significant. She too underwent the surgery but instead refuses to be acknowledged as a victim. She speaks on behalf of those who cannot or will not speak out, and for those who are ashamed of what has happened to their bodies. Ms Hussein now recognises the importance of education and works on campaigns to protect the female body. Although she did not originally think of the operation as violent, as it was accepted and encouraged within the family, now she realises it was child abuse. Responding to Ms Franks’ opening question asking participants why they were here, Ms Hussein says:

“I’m rising today for my grandmother who was married off at twelve; I’m rising for my mother, for myself, for my children and for my future grandchildren.”

Whitney Iles, aged only 26, was applauded onto the stage where she introduced herself and her job with Project 507. The project aims to dispel violence amongst youngsters aged between 8-18 by creating workshops and challenging the way they relate to one another through education. From her experience, she had encountered women as second class citizens. For, even if women are not subjected to physical violence, they can fall victim to self-judgement, psychological violence and social stereotypes, which contribute to damaging self-esteem. Ms Iles admitted: “we don’t see ourselves how we deserve to be seen” and urged the audience to improve their personal outlook. She demanded the audience to chant that they would not accept mistreatment of women any longer, and shout: “I will not be anything less than Brilliant!” Ms Iles asked the audience to look past their imperfections and to love themselves…arguing: “After all it is Valentine’s Day”.

She said, “I will rise for love because when we love ourselves we love each other” and “we become an unstoppable force.”

Wannabe Girl-band SHE17 consisted of TV personality June Sarpong, Baroness Patricia Scotland and local MP Stella Creasy. As a trio, they spoke about the importance of ending violence against women in society. They claimed that cooperative responsibility can eliminate violence, particularly in domestic violence cases where victims often seek an ally to support their decision. The audience was encouraged to do the thing they were most scared of, despite the difficulties that come with questioning patriarchy. She rallied that only through determination can gender-equality become a possibility. Ms Creasy said:  “Speak out and dance, regardless of the possibility that you might sink.”

Next up, Jude Kelly walked onto the stage and introduced herself as the artistic director of Southbank’s Women Of the World Festival (WOW). Since starting 4 years ago, she has acted as a pioneer for advocating feminism, believing that the only way to succeed is through re-educating the younger generation. WOW festival is a collection of workshops and talks spanning the International Women’s Day weekend in March, where people come together and exchange ideas about what feminism means. Ms Kelly claims that no society has achieved complete equality as of yet, but this should remain a goal to strive towards. She encourages men to become feminists too, reminding the audience that this is true equality and the reason for her rising: “Lets rise as women and men, and come together as humans.”

Human Rights Journalist and BBC Special Correspondent Sue Lloyd Roberts stressed the importance of bringing media attention to gender-related issues. She believes this would increase public awareness and improve female mistreatment through education. She claims often “we women are” treated as “another minority, when actually we make up 51% of the world population.” Ms Lloyd Roberts encouraged a greater demand for female coverage in the media, saying that if there is an interest, it would be possible to “get violence against women on the top of the news agenda” and talked about more openly.

Rahela Siddiqi, a human rights activist in Afghanistan spoke about her time working with incarcerated female asylum seekers. She claims that despite their sentencing, offenders are often not treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Instead, women that have faced trauma in their home countries and sought asylum abroad are met with further problems. Ms Sidiqi said that they can be offered indefinite detention, half of all victims are subjected to rape and two thirds face prosecution. Furthermore, they can be detained during any stage of their prosecution process, and are often exploited as they lack legal assistance. Female asylum seekers are rarely given time or sensitivity towards their cases. Ms Sidiqi urged the audience to rise up for female solidarity in Afghanistan.

The last speaker of the day was Marrissa, who spontaneously spoke out about domestic workers. Although she was not scheduled in the programme, she spoke about exploitative employers, who submit their workers to atrocious conditions. Her friend Lanee read out a poem which challenged the rights of undocumented workers. She attended the event to rise against ongoing slavery in the UK workforce.

Ms Franks returned to the microphone and introduced the bands Skin and Black Voices who collaborated and provided a soulful backdrop for the audience to dance to. Despite the rainy weather, there was a lot of people smiling and beginning to love themselves!

One Billion Rising Official Website

Leyla Husein advocating an end to FGM

Whitney Iles & Project 507

Jude Kelly’s Women Of the World Festival


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The Two of Us by Isabel Marler

The Two of Us
How was it that you had two sets of eyes?

First eyes saw me.

Second eyes, shifting, saw someone else.  A shadow in someone else’s bed.


And didn’t you have two pairs of ears?

First ears listened while I talked.  Heard my feminism as stranger but accepted it as friend.

Second ears heard privilege.  Got poured with poison and heard lies.


What I could never understand was your two mouths.

First mouth brushed mine.  Crackedlipsroughstubblewarmtongue.  And beamed and screamed I love you! First mouth made me come.

Second mouth spat syllables.  Called me whore.


So now I have two hearts.

First heart beats strong wrapped in clichés: itsforthebestbetteroffwithouthimonwardsandupwards

Second heart shrivels and drains.  Chamber walls collapse and stick together.

Second heart croaks for the blood that your pumping blood pumped into it when it was just the two of us.


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This Beast by Isabel Marler

This Beast: An Ode to Patriarchy


Coldness marks the success of this beast

Calculation and swiftness


Coldness is mathematics and is also knowing how to make them hot for your fruit

But dry bran and gelid cuts will not feed this beast

Sustenance is alive and moving

Sustenance is full of hot blood shining waves bright as magnesium

(No need at night for this beast’s lidless eyes)

Sustenance isn’t small but substantial and squirming

It squeals to stay on the forest floor

To dodge the gaping jaw

Sustenance is swallowed

Acid and time turn bones muscle blood and hair into neat chains of aminos

Absorbed, protein renews this beast who, replenished

Stalks again in colourful cold new skin

[I wrote this poem as a response to the recurring image of systems of power having crises and replenishing themselves. The starting point was thinking about the adoption ‘feminism’ by entities that otherwise uphold existing power relations, such as the UN security council, which reflect the global imbalance of wealth and power.  Transformative political movements can be taken in, broken up and absorbed by existing power structures in order to re-consolidate the latter.  It is when power masks itself that it is most effective.  Stagnation in the guise of transformation.]

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Reading magazines: A poem by Ruth-Eloise Lewis

I am in the kitchen, dressed all in black

My feet on fire and flailing; running up slippery staircases

Because a job is a job.

A single lingering fingertip; a tap, a knock, a pinch

Of my skin. Reminds me that you think me inferior.

“But cheer up, it might never happen.

Are you dirty enough between the sheets?”


I am walking down the street, being rained on

By a constant hiss- the pluck of thirsty lips

That hunts my own body for kicks.


“Clever little girl.

He’s a lad, it’s a laugh- we didn’t mean to cause any offence,

She’s a slut, she’s a wench- don’t take it personally.

Don’t be frigid.”


You don’t need to be a misogynist to be a man.


“But she’s a bitch, she was asking for it-

Did she drink too much, was she wearing a skirt?”

I cut my hair short regardless of my sexuality,

Maybe being a lesbian isn’t solely for your voyeuristic pleasure,

I am sick and tired of imaging if it were my sister, my daughter, my mother:


It is me.


“Lighten up, get over it.”


“I’d smash her back doors in, I’d pound her pussy.

Keep calm and rape on.

You wanted it because you didn’t explicitly say no.

If you’re happy and you know it show us your tits.

Make her a sex addict.

Very capable woman, if such a thing exists.

Women’s Running; lose weight, look good.

Men’s Running: get strong, run faster, be a better athlete.

She’s probs a dyke.”
Boobs are not news.


I am in the kitchen, dressed all in black.

My feet on fire and flailing; running up glass staircases

Because a job is a job.

Yet, we are so much more capable-


Than just being looked at.

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Hollie McNish – A Poem About Flo Rida’s Blow My Whistle

Have you ever sat and wondered what the hell is going on in Flo Rida’s Blow My Whistle video? Is it keeping you up at night even? That imagery is pretty cryptic, impossible even. Jokes aside, Hollie McNish is a super cool poet and we absolutely love her satirical parody about this godawful song. It’s like the best comeback imaginable to the most terrible insult imaginable.

However, you must listen to her poem under strict instructions!
1. Play Flo Rida’s video, ‘Blow My Whistle’ and Hollie’s poem at the same time, and
2. Mute the sound off Flo Rida’s vid

I can almost guarantee that she’ll make you laugh. So, win win for the feminists. And a big fat fail for Flo.

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Trichotillomania by Yarn and Lace.

I had a sense of souls and songs

That we were on the edge

Of something; twisting and pulling

It exhumes you.

Follicles gape like barren rabbit holes.

The weight of her chin presses on your shoulder,

It drags you down or digs you up.


I did not know there was rope.


Invisible railroads tied to the cotton of your clothes,

Tapered ends fraying with new growth.


The bare burrow lays open, expelled and abjected,

A consummate cord runs from the pit of your stomach,

Pulls every artery downwards, tight as guitar strings,

Resisting the strum of strands, the pluck, the pick

For weeks, for months, for days.


We were on the edge of the something?


My hair grows like twine over my paper collarbone,

Burying its roots to where my neck meets my head;

Where my heart reaches my mind.


A ribbon bows, a billowed branch grows.

Eyelashes and eyebrow stencils shower your cheeks.

Broken hairs and blunt ends seethe and seep.

The weight of her chin presses on your shoulder,

It pulls you down and picks you up.


And I am that empty follicle-

I am that empty edge, drawing in

I am the string, the string,

The string

Of something.


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Five Minutes

the second you go
I forget what your voice sounds like
the iodine, the alloy, the tintype

whether I made up the glossy terminology
and stuck it down into your throat
so the redolent groans tumbled out of you
like waves

we sat underneath
the sweet scent of Wisteria
the dusty shade balking and bawling
protecting its grey daguerreotype
from the barks and bites of rays;
soft shadows falling over the face of Susanna

we spent the hours together, heavy-footed
in the city that is drowning.
why would they build a kingdom on the water?
you laughed, and looked away.

all day, all days
I have seen you imprinted on the screen
your mercury and metal oxidizing the air-
and now you are gone

and I can’t remember a thing.


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Introducing Mr DZ…

These landscapes together slow.
Tired, gloved hands
With bleary eyes
Tying small bows of thought
Streaming ribbons tangle into knots
Growing wild
In disused quarries where poppies flower
And tiny feet shuttle.
Dried fruit lies unpicked
Fruit of fertile ground.
Seen through a haze,
Tasted in a dream.

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Redefined- A Poem

we grew it.

and nothing happened.

we ceased
to use the lotion
the bottled empty packaged dream
that seemed to cry and scream
a thousand promises of rejuvenation
of self-preservation , of being
presentable and dilutable and sociable
and socially accepted.

we grew it.

and the industry did not
cease to be
to control and scream and wail out
from giant speakers
a wolf-cry of authority,

it did not halt on wet tracks
and renounce the perpetuation
of a single, defined, unreachable

it did not rip down every last poster
and blank ghostly face
of features distorted and created
by a crying computer
and turn every steely, lifeless
voyeuristic gaze away from the bodies
cut from cardboard and sealed with glue

but, we grew we grew we grew

everything happened

as redefined, we flew.

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ARE WE EQUALS? Video Highlights

Today I took a look at the website EQUALS which questions whether men and women really are equal in contemporary society. The EQUALS movement is comprised of charities and membership organisations, supported by partners in arts and entertainment.

There are plenty of interesting videos to watch on the website but these two were my personal favourites.

Award winning poet Sabrina Mahfouz uses spoken word to question whether the damage of strip clubs on our society and how they affect and influenced those involved, are they glamorous and harmless? Or derogatory and dangerous?


My Feminist Body by Aisha & Pauline questions why so many women feel negatively about their bodies and gives some insights into how we can work towards a more positive body image and eradicate sexism every day.


So are we equals? Until the answer is yes, we should never stop asking.

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