Category Archives: Poetry

Reviews, poems I like and poems by me

Interview with Dorothea Smartt, Brit born Bajan literary activist, live artist & poet

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Dorothea Smartt is a literary activist, live artist, and an established and respected poet with an international reputation. Born and raised in London she is of Barbadian heritage. Described as a ‘Brit-born Bajan international’, her work typically bridges the islands of Britain and Barbados, effortlessly shuttling between local and global scenes as it weaves a diasporic web. With two full collections, Connecting Medium and Ship Shape [Peepal Tree Press] her twenty years of experience, includes been engaged by the British Council and travelling to Bahrain, South Africa, Egypt, and Hungary. In 2013 she was keynote speaker at the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award, the premier literary award in Barbados. She is an honorary team member and advisor to Cambridge University’s Caribbean Poetry Project. She is Co-Director of Inscribe, a national writer development programme, Associate Poetry Editor of “Sable Litmag” and guest co-editor of their LGBTQI issues, and an Advisory editor to “Scarf”, a global arts & literature magazine. In her forthcoming third collection she continues to rework standard narratives, this time examining same-sex relationships and cross-gender experiences as push-pull factors behind ‘West Indian’ émigré workers on the Panama Canal.

In this interview, Dorothea underlines her relationship to her Bajan voice as a critical medium for her poetry. She reflects on her South London birth and upbringing in a Bajan household and the process of finding her voice and creating her place in the world as a Black girl in Britain. In the course of discussing her depiction of specifically located characters and their particular voices within her poetry collections, she repurposes historical and mythological figures, from Medusa to “Samboo” whom she renames Bilal. She engages us in her practice of historical “healing, restitution, recovery, re-membering and re-calling” in the excavation of overlooked and erased voices in past and present contexts. Her philosophy as a cultural practitioner is revealed through her treatment of cultural narratives as they impact individual and collective memory and consciousness, and implicate themselves in geographical landscapes. Her work re-inscribes a gendered, multiply located, lived and mythologized individual, familial and collective healing space.

She concludes by reading the introductory poem to her latest publication, “Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings-On”, which was launched in Barbados at the Bim LitFest held on May 15-17, 2014.

Kagendo Murungi is a Kenyan writer, video producer and activist with a background in international sexual and gender rights advocacy. Her writing has been featured in the Queer African Reader (2013), Kwani? 07 (2012), United Nations Days of Vesak/International Association of Buddhist Universities Conference Journal (2012), Yellow Medicine Review (2011/2010) Sing Whisper Shout Pray: Feminist Visions for A Just World (2002), Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art (2002) and a range of other publications and multimedia productions.

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The Rabid Virus {Poems of Resistance}

The Rabid Virus

1

It is a global epidemic
Somehow causing fitful laughter
Mainly causing fearful slaughter
In the selfsame flock
Fearful but if you said as
Much it’s enough excuse
They set children they’ve
“Dog train,” kids on you.
Those without children
Will just infect their dogs
“Definitely!” assurance of
Fear. Gender role is the
Unnamed virus human’s
Live with daily viral form
They call it, “the order of
Things!” It reeks dosorder.
Rumi calls it, “consumptive”
‘Akiarapa calls it, “ailment”
Buddha calls it, “suffering,”
Ignatius calls it, “in-breeding”
Descart call it, “chains,”
Fearfully a friend asked
“Why is everyone giving
you dirty looks?”
They are fearful of the uncertainties
My existence provokes in them…
Enough said only humans
Can live in occupation so &
Say, “that’s why we are here!”
& rabidly believe it…

2

Away and home team up
Always at each others throats
Only setting time out for
The outsider they see in me
The virus that holds them together
Irritates others like me robbing us
Of breathing space. Questioning
Our right to basic human rights,
Questioning our rights to use designated loos
Question our right to our own voices
And then turning it into an imaginary
Cow prod to keep us in line
“You need to bleach wash your brain
Out!” they’d say calling other on board.
Or the rabid virus would say at
Our expense. Hell, some of us out
Of fear out of a craving for acceptance
Out of desire for approval.
“How do they do it? How do they?”
They thunder the rabid virus does
The neocolonial craze is in the air
Neocolonialist come in all colours
No use pointing out colonialist alone
We all take part in the demise
Of soul of spirit of our role in to true self

3

If in doubt listen again when out and about
If in doubt listen to your heartfelt pelt
We, some of us, call ourselves women
We, some of us, call ourselves men
But do not forget some call ourselve trans
Some intersex some queer some neuter
But wherever the leaf drops
The cancer is the same.
Bornstein calls it, “the either/or” system
Agbaje calls it, “Okun n’b’obirin”
Raymond calls it, “the transsexual empire”
In an attempt to apportion blame
The band wagon followed her lead
Inagije called it, “eat make a eat jo!”
Diaspora (African) call it, “white supremacy”
And still dem go bone when a say
A no be dis a no be dat a don tell una
A no be bai, bai not to be mistaken for bi
“Are you trying to be a pariah?”
A guy asked me once when I answered
NO! I’m a woman only loving neuter
He barred me from existence if he could.
Cousin Warrior took one look and asked
The ground under his feet to swallow him whole.
Later cousin Warrior told aunt Mope
“He said he is no longer Home”
“How dare he?” she responded blaming
Her near rape by my father on me
It happened even before I was born
“Inkan se!” she said thinking “like father like son”.

4

Efen multicultural nonentities go put mouth
Dem go say, “na paranoia dey kill am”
Dem no fit speak the truth wey dey
Kill dem small, small for body
Dem no sabi say na di epidemik wey dey dem
Heart. Dem no sabi say because of di
Paranoia wey dey dem heart dey so so
Wey dem for heart
Dem know sey somtin dey
Wey dem sef dey call dem rabid virus dem
We dey chop dem since so na ma
Palava dem com put for head…
What is it about gender role?
How dare you say you are a woman?
How dare you say you are a man?
What was that? Trans?
How dare you say you are
Trans, intersex or Queer?
Chides the mob of sufferers
Upgrader to gender role police
It is unnatural it is unAfrican.
No it isn’t.
Gender role is unafrican it enslaves
Women gender role is unnatural it
Makes monsters of men
Gender role is the rabid virus
It makes cowards of us all
Before you become slaves to disorder
Question what evils you sow.
The rabid virus is gender role.

5

It is a global epidemic gender role
Check it out causing fitful laughter
In some causing fearful slaughter mainly
In the selfsame flock so
Fearful but if you said as
Much it’s enough excuse for them
To set their children they’ve
“Dog trained” kids on you.
Those without children
Will just infect their dogs somehow
“Definitely!” assurance of
Fear. Gender role is the
Unnamed virus human’s
Live with daily viral form
They call it, “the order of
Things!” It reeks disorder.
Rumi calls it, “consumptive”
‘Akiarapa calls it, “ailment”
Buddha calls it, “suffering,”
Ignatius calls it, “in-breeding”
Descartes call it, “chains,”
Fearfully a friend asked
“Why is everyone giving
you dirty looks?”
They are fearful of the uncertanties
My existence provokes in them…
Enough said only humans
Can live in occupation so &
Say, “that’s why we are here!”
& rabidly believe it…

Mia Nikasimo (c) March 2014

A Word to 9Jas {Poems of Resistance}

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Neocolo Chop Chop {A Poem to Goody Jonatenn & 9Ja Kaki Lovers} {Poems of Resistance}

Neocolo Chop Chop

As A look u so u be gay
Dis na my chance to chop &
Chop & chop sotay dem no
Go  say A no work, A no put
Food for table, A no put roof
Over ma family head, dem.
U see say a be gay wetin be
Conductor’s palava for driver?

As A look u so u lesbian
Goodoulucku don give us the
Starting point the rest dey una
Hands if u see dem make
U show dem say kaki no be
Leather; leather self no be
Kaki, no be so? Na so oh…
A be lesbian wetin na kaki
Palava for latest leather?

As A see u so u be bi
Na so na. Wetin do dem dey
Hala dem gay dem lezzy dem?
Na waa oh. Make we do some
Ting now. Sabi u dey play
Me a dey play u? Ern now.
Wetin be una lezzy gay? Na waa.
Na so oh. Na bi a be a no be
Bai, bai. “Ewo n’ti ‘e l’oro mi”?

As A see u so u be “Aparinda” (?)
Wait ma a laugh first… sey una
Na man or woman or na hala
Be dis oh make una com see
Pancake for face nna una eye-
Liner take u na bag Miss World
Na only u dey? A beg, a beg
U see say a be trans who you dey
Call “aparinda (sex change)”?
Na wetin be colomental palava for ma tori?

As A see u so u be intersex
Water do pass gaari for dis obon
Oyinbo. No bi Naija we dey?
Wetin u say u be both, oloun
Walai Chineke gaari don pass water
Mae a go come a go show una pepper
Way u dey go wait na. u dey fear?
Me a no dey oh a no sabi five prison
Chineke poku! A be intersex, so?
A send u? Make u na cool temper.

As u dey so u be queer
See me see trouble oh  una too get
Mouth. If no be dis na dat how
Person go sabi pikin for dis colo?
See me see trouble wetin god do una?
E put u for dis una life no bi so?
Ah beg oh ah no fi shout. Giv me chop
U know say a dey queer wetin na
Una own for anyting goes; amebo?

Wetin dey chop u na for ma palava?
Ah no say ah be a minority of one
Tell me how dat wan take kill u?
Na so so “a see say, a see say” u dey
Peddle; wetin dey bite u for body?
Wake up chop, wake up chop, wake up
Wetin tell u say sacrifice wey u na
Cook no go nuke u sooner or later?
A beg bo lef tori wey no be una palava.

Mia Nikasimo (c) March 2014

TO BUILD A MONUMENT

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnaili have known false teachers who swept

me beneath their words, forced me out of my

orbit to fly under the radar and made it clear

that i had nothing to offer.

and although my spirit broke

when death simultaneously broke into my heart and stole,

i spent long years laughing hard

to keep the tears away and i came to be

known by my smile and not my frown.

although my heart was dislocated

and i sat there biting my nails for nothing,

i chose to grow for the same reason that a wild flower does -

because it is alive.

in my art’s luster i watched my eyes change,

and i watched my fears die a natural death.

the universe turned,

and fanned a glow that fired me into air when

my soul, mind and universe agreed that for

i have thus far acted out my life in stages, so shall i act out my life on stages.

that for as long as i have my soul in mind,

acting will be my canvas to chalk with colorful joys

and familiar pains, both with the audacity of a passion that kills;

both with a timeless finesse.

married i remain to the art that speaks my truth and fragments,

performance that towers high like a monument untouchable.

The Memory Snatcher – A Short Story

THE MEMORY SNATCHER – a short story by  DIRIYE OSMAN

(An exclusive new short story)

Photo from DiriyeOsman.com
Photo from DiriyeOsman.com

There was once a house built out of memories and inside this house lived a woman called The Memory Snatcher. This woman was my Aunt Beydan. She was a sorceress and as a child I feared she would stalk me in my sleep and steal all my memories until I could no longer remember who I was.

She looked like a witch:

red, red hair,

dark, dark skin,

skin dry as bark,

bark bad as bite,

teeth chipped,

nails unclipped.

She smelt of camel milk and Camel cigarettes. I couldn’t stand her stench or her stare. She could walk into a room filled with joy and slash the niceness in half. So yes, I detested this Memory Snatcher. But in a small way I saved her life when I was a child. And she returned this favor when I needed it the most as an adult.

I

Memory Snatchers are demoniacs trapped between the past and the future, between the spirit world and the earth, belonging to themselves neither in soul nor sense. Those are Satan’s keepsakes.

Beydan’s soul was possessed by Satan. So my parents locked her up in the basement and shackled her to her bed. That’s when the beatings began.

Reader, reader, do not get it twisted. I repeat, do not get it twisted. Every fruit, whether ripe or rotten, has its roots. So too does this tale.

Before Beydan became a Memory Snatcher she was a Mother. Before she was a Mother she was a Wife and before she was a Wife she was her Father’s daughter. Her identity was not hers to keep. Her life was a splintered spine, leaves too loose: an illegible manuscript left languishing on the shelf.

She belonged to the men in her family and Satan was now one of them. These men waged war for the rights to her soul using her body as battlefield. In order to punish each other, in order to prove sovereignty over the other, they thrashed Beydan physically and psychically. Satan may have caged her soul but mortal man, armed with sticks and scripture, held her body ransom.

But how did this woman’s life come to this?

When Beydan was her Father’s daughter there was a slice of time that allowed for roaming. These roaming activities included a spell in secondary school. For her two older brothers education was a birthright. For Beydan education was a gift that came wrapped in bespoke paper, and she pursued her studies with the single-mindedness of a monk seeking the Divine. She inhaled Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, Nawal El Saadawi’s Memoirs of a Woman Doctor. She was a spiky teenager rebelling against the soul-suck mirror reflected back at her in her mother’s blank stare, her question mark of a spine. Determined to beat the odds, she completed high school with distinction. But there was a caveat. Beydan was allowed to roam and educate herself – up to a point. On her eighteenth birthday her Father sat her down and held out his Rolexed wrist. Studded with crystals and flecks of diamond, the watch dazzled in the light. All Beydan could hear, however, was tick-tock-tick-tick-tick-tick -  time to neatly fold all her hard work, to parcel up her progress, send it to the attic in her subconscious and let dust gather on her dreams. There was a lump in her throat and a stopwatch in her womb.

Her Father introduced her to Rahim.

Rahim wore suede shoes, silk shirts. He was schooled in Homi Bhabha’s theories and spoke in sentences of exquisite gobbledygook.

RAHIM (glancing at BEYDAN’S jeans and T-shirt): As Bhabha might have noted, I feel your accoutrements represent the counterpressure of the diachrony of history.

BEYDAN: Que?

RAHIM: Your mimicry of western culture figuratively embodies an ironic compromise.

BEYDAN: Who is this Bhabha you speak of? Is he your father?

Despite his penchant for doublespeak, bwoy was sweet like money: relatively debonair, delicately textured hair, a lickle flavor to spare. Beydan accepted his proposal but nonetheless went into marriage with the mindset of someone facing hard time. On her wedding night, as Rahim spread her limbs and fucked her until her eyes rolled back, she placed her hennaed fingertips between his lips. That’s when the image of her body as machinery flashed into her mind. As Rahim worked her side-angles she hung suspended between dread and delight knowing that her body, her brain – every physical, sexual and cognitive capability – was an intricate machine with the capacity to surprise and appall. When she came she shoved Rahim’s face between her thighs and wrapped her legs around his neck until he had licked every inch of her, until he gasped for air. In that moment she understood his fragility and her own strength. She made him put in the work until it was time for breakfast, which she served with relish: poached eggs with salsa, pancakes with butter, spicy tea. She was now a Wife but she tweaked that role to cater to her own appetites.

This is where I come into the narrative.

When Beydan became pregnant I was sent off to help her around the house. It was the spring of ’98 and I was a buck-toothed thirteen-year-old with braids that made my skull resemble a giant onion. My Mother was ruthless when it came to my nappy roots, believing that coconut oil and a tenderly-wielded afro-pick were not enough to expedite appropriate follicular development. So she used muscle for the hustle, a technique that involved elbow grease on her part and much weeping on mine, resulting in braids so tight I couldn’t rest right.

I arrived at Beydan’s house during El Niño. The rains had flooded the streets of Nairobi, there were blackouts, and generators cranked noisily into the night. I feared Nairobi flies, tiny beetles that caused painful pustules when crushed against the skin. They had crawled onto the face of a classmate whilst he was asleep and he had come to school the next day bearing a close facial resemblance to Quasimodo. I started sleeping with towels wrapped around my face.

Nairobi flies and El Niño couldn’t fuck with Beydan’s flow. She was a woman galvanized by impending motherhood. As her body expanded so did her interior landscape. She imagined minarets, skyscrapers, entire cities being constructed inside her. Thighs thickened, belly became basketball-sized, buttocks deepened with dimples. Even her taste-buds shifted, and she held her tongue out for crushed ice, chalk, charcoal.

‘Aunt Beydan, stop eating my stationery!’ I shouted when I noticed her munching her way through my art materials.  ‘I can make you a sandwich if you’re that hungry.’

She stopped what she was doing and looked at me. I felt churlish for denying her my charcoal. I relinquished a stick and she relished it, black foam forming at the corners of her mouth. When she had devoured the charcoal she wiped her lips and said, ‘I never thought I would be happy about becoming a mother.’

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘I felt it was a trap. I wanted to go places, pursue a life unhampered by a husband or children. I never thought that being pregnant could give me such pleasure. I laugh at myself sometimes and I wonder if what I’m experiencing is not real happiness but a simulation of happiness.’

I took her hand. ‘What you’re feeling is real.’

‘Give me proof,’ she said with sudden urgency, and her nails bit into my palm.

I shook free of her grip, reached for her round belly and said, ‘Isn’t this proof?’  

 

Beydan gave birth while I was in biology class. My Mother called the school to let me know that the baby had been named Aisha after me. I skipped, hopped, skipped my way home.

I didn’t have any siblings. My Mother nearly died giving birth to me so my parents didn’t try for another child. My childhood consisted of reading, drawing and solo hopscotch, where my imagination had to make giant leaps. My mind was a pop-up book filled with forests, fortresses, dense-dense jungles: complex kingdoms, layer upon layer of imagined realities. In the outer world I was silent and solitary, but I had cultivated a textured, earth-deep interior life. 

I was ecstatic about having a younger cousin. The fact that we were namesakes was the icing on a multi-tiered cake. I begged my Father to take me to see Beydan and the baby. 

‘Your Aunt is tired,’ he sighed. My Father was Beydan’s older Brother and he was protective of her.

‘Is she okay?’ I asked.

‘Yes, she’s fine,’ he said, but I didn’t believe him.

That night I heard my parents arguing.

‘What do you mean ‘she doesn’t even want to look at the baby’?’ shouted my Father.

‘I don’t know! All Beydan wants to do is sleep. Her breasts are full of milk but she doesn’t want to nurse. She just lies there dead-eyed.’

‘What is Rahim’s reaction?’

‘That fool is so caught up in his studies that he hasn’t noticed something is wrong,’ said my Mother. ‘I think we should bring her here.’

The next day Beydan and baby Aisha were brought to our house. When I saw Beydan I knew something horrific had happened. She had shape-shifted from an exuberant woman into someone who had warmed to the idea of death. Lips dry, bleary-eye: she got out of the car and bolted to my bedroom, visibly shaking. My Mother went and got the baby and brought her in. My parents looked concerned. I kept quiet.

 

Continue reading The Memory Snatcher here

Review of Fairytales for Lost Children by Bernadino Evaristo

You can purchase “Fairytales For Lost Children” via the following links:

UK: http://amzn.to/12nRtp7

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CAN: http://amzn.to/1ePjj6u

Garlands

Garlands

What response befits a company of douche-bags?
This is not about us. No, it so isn’t about us.
The uninvited attention from wayward wands.

Fighting voices fly upwards from the street nags
Below. What makes everyone think they know?
What makes you think you know these lands?

Those questions were mine these bands these flags
All mine. Every feisty voice rang out unburying me
A corpse hard to forget. Expectations & demands!

All hours of the day. Swishing swashing windbags?
No, just people. People like me. People like us.
Not female, not male, everyone else. No reprimands.

If being autistic, black and trans are only tags…
All it took was a diagnosis of FOP & com nonplus.
Often you bang on the wall fussing garlands…

African ebony black, Demur lacklutred no free shags.
I don’t do porno stretches sucking up to the fee
Egocentric humans what do you expect -the badlands?

No longer all this maddening fuss of pitted flags
And then all the labels hover stripped of pedigree
How many times do we need to take the bandstands?

Attachment issues assail us all. That’s the fuss…
Such disorder masking as order yet we decree
Suffering and smiling; all is just dreamy garlands.

Garlands? Yes, garlands. This body isn’t a demo-fag.
Trans bodies must exist bodies too no matter the goal
This isn’t elective female, male dom not of badlands

This landscape of garlands consolidates all culture tags
Murmurs warm their way in on me. What is this cree?
Trans bodies too must exist bodies too. Tlk 2 th hands!

Mia Nikasimo (c) September 2013

Westgate: Dying in Violence

On Sunday morning I scrolled my Twitter timeline for comments from Kenyans such as Keguro Macharia, Shailja Patel and Kenne Mwika, like many trying to understand, to once again process mass death.  That weekend the killing spree crossed 4 countries, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Iraq.  These were described as ‘terror’ killings as if the killings in Syria, the DRC, Central African Republic and other zones of violence are not also full of terror!

I like many many others became increasingly disturbed, filled with deep sadness and frustration at the violence surrounding us all – just knowing it could happen, is part of the terror.     @Kweligee [Bring me the African guy] had written a blog post on dying, “the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve had” which though written before Nairobi was wrenched with death, seemed  appropriate. I replied with a question  “How are you dying? In fear, in hiding, in violence? or in peace?”

No one died in peace in Westgate and the only dreams to be had would be nightmares. “Dying in violence” as @Kweligee wrote.  Poetry has been a solace and we have to thank the poets who helped us in this way, people like Keguro Macharia and Shailja Patel who refused to fall into the trap of easy rhetoric and the usual nationalistic narrative which hide the truth.

Let it be known that some of us are of more value than others, some of us will die and no one at the Guardian or New York Times will write the story, some of us will be killed by AK47s and hand grenades, others will die from computerized guns in the sky. We are dying in violence and some of those responsible don’t own up!

I never intended to write anything on Westgate but I received these two poems from Shailja Patel….Westgate Blow Back – two poems.

 

Via The New Inquiry
Via The New Inquiry

ALMOST

Baidoa, Baadheere, Baydhabo, Dinsur, Afgooye, Bwale, Barawe, Jilib, Kismayo and Afmadhow will be under attack continuously. The Kenya Defence Forces urges anyone with relatives and friends in the ten towns to advise them accordingly. We are doing well on the battle front, continue praying for us.

– Major E. Chirchir, Kenya Military Spokesman, Operation Linda Nchi, November 2011

I touch walls and sweaters and keyboards
as if they bruise easily
I do not want to be touched
in these charred and sizzling days
when all flesh
is frangible

killing killing killing killing
repeated enough it’s almost
beautiful

If there? They are
enemy. The innocent
were warned. No old,
no infirm, no children, no sick,
disabled, starving, pregnant
in our war.

al-shabaab al-shabaab al-shabaab al-shabaab
repeated enough it’s almost
prayerful

Where do you run
when borders are closed
when sky rains death
when all paths lead
to conflagration?

crush them crush them crush them crush them
repeated enough it’s almost
edible

Under continuous attack
clear the land
leave nothing
to claim, nothing
to return to.

Leave no one alive
to tell.

attack attack attack attack
repeated enough it’s almost
sacramental

I give you
ten towns. Take
Athi River, Machakos, Ongata Rongai
Ngong, Kikuyu, Mombasa
Take Naivasha, Thika, Kisumu

Kijabe they will be under attack
continuously advise
your relatives and friends there
accordingly

linda nchi linda nchi linda nchi linda nchi
repeated enough it’s almost
potable

The ones still there
are enemy. All who die
are enemy. We are doing well
we guarantee success
pray for us.

pray for us pray for us pray for us pray for us
repeated enough it’s almost
absolution.

 

BLOWBACK

On civilian deaths, Kenya should first be asked why they bombed innocent Somali civilians in refugee camps, why they bombed innocent people in Gedo and Jubba regions. If they don’t withdraw, attacks like this will become common in Kenya.

– Al-Shabaab spokesperson, Al-Jazeera, September 22, 2013

we will not
hashtag
our grief

our grief may not
be branded for profit

an eight-year old is an eight-year old is an eight-year old
Wagalla is Waziristan is Westgate

a pregnant woman is a pregnant woman is a pregnant woman
Garissa is Kismayo is Nairobi

blood is blood is blood is blood is blood
the stupid, the venal, the cruel inherit the earth

we withhold our grief
from the merchants of death

our grief will not be harnessed
to engines of war

take everything else
this is ours

our grief
is not
open for business

 

Via The New Inquiry 

SOKARI EKINE: A Poem at Peace with Itself.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnailthat wise place is in you, warrior o, where the prophet talks, and visions are cautiously told. where men are fine as goodness itself and women are strong as baobab. you, one-woman army, carry the heavy when wata done pass gaari. that human place is in you, prophet, where the wind speaks stories of ancestors, untold. where rivers flow in ancient direction and cheek-long tears are sparkles of power. you, poem at peace with itself, lighten the heavy. sebi, u no dey fear even before a pantheon of coarse gods? that valiant place is in you, Sokari, where questions blow hard and dry like harmattan, like why our tainted mirrors are unfair to all the beautiful ones. put simply, i dey hail you.

 

PATH OF THE SMILING SUN

one of the solos in my head keeps chanting that

uncertainty is the best way to contaminate time.

 

i, myself am not sure what i am meant to scream to that

because i am already living the truth of that statement,

by default.

 

i wake up furious because the sun keeps rising

and the days keep

swiftly rolling

along, yet i am still unsure.

i remain restless and risible in my uncertainty -

laughing and dancing without a cause.

 

waiting has finished the bones of my body,

it has thinned the threads of my mind.

i set each damned sun with bottles of bitter white wine because

i need to evade the questions in my head about why

my future is still yet to be written by some fat-bellied white

man in the concrete jungle across the sea.

questions demanding to know

if it is really necessary for my lips to be thus curled with cynicism.

surely i am too young for the darkness in my head.

that solo in my head, i think, should rather speak to me about danger

because uncertainty has a knack for creating desperation. please,

a chorus of solos in my head should proclaim a chilling message about danger, and guide me along the path of the smiling sun.

“emotion runs under one umbrella, it is the ‘weather’ that changes.” Uche Peter Umez interviews Jumoke Verissimo

Interviewer’s Note: JUMOKE VERISSIMO has performed her poetry in Nigeria, Macedonia and Norway; some of which have appeared in “Migrations” (Afro-Italian) Wole Soyinka ed., “Voldposten 2010″ (Norway), “Livre d’or de Struga” (Poetes du monde, sous le patronage de l’UNESCO) and are in translation in Italian, Norwegian, French, Japanese, Chinese, and Macedonian. Some of her fiction has been published in print and online magazines. Jumoke is regarded as one of the most exciting poets amongst her contemporaries in Nigeria. Her poetry collection I am memory was adapted for stage by Crown Troupe, Nigeria.

jumoke

 

Uche Peter Umez: Your debut collection I am Memory was hailed as “passionate, sensual” by the multi award-winning playwright Biyi Bandele. You’ve been on the literary scene for a very long time, why did it take you so long to publish a collection?

Jumoke Verissimo: Well, one never knows why these things decide the time they do. For, there were indeed plans to get the book published, but it just never became a reality for one reason or the other. It is good to recount how I had people who were genuinely interested in publishing my first collection. However, it found a home with DADA Books, because it shared the ideas I had for the book. At the time, I was thinking of some sort of collaboration—drawing and poetry, photography and poetry etc., and Ayo Arigbabu was thinking along the same line. We spoke about it when he came to The Guardian newspaper, where I worked as a freelancer at the time.

In the earlier days, it was called Songs of Reparation. By time it would get to Ayo Arigbabu, it had been rewritten too many times and the voluminous pages had slimmed down into a very different book from its earlier version. For this reason, I like to think the book came out when it was ready. It is a rather slim volume—and I am proud of the effort that entered into it. Now goes that cliché: “it is not how far…”

Uche Peter Umez: A friend who recently read I am Memory said it was “seamless, flowing non-stop.” I admire the way you use language in a very musical way; each poem is so lyrical it could be sung easily. How long did it take you to write “Memory Lane 1″? Was there a point when you thought the poems will have to be performed on stage?

Jumoke Verissimo: I appreciate that consistency in the response I have received from readers. I have always been fascinated by the tonal possibilities of my indigenous language—Yoruba. This is not possible with English, but with a careful choice of words one can create some sort of harmony.

As for the period it took to write, “Memory Lane I”, I can’t tell. Perhaps it is time to confess that the first few lines were written for someone I had a crush on as a teenager. This was in 1998, or so. It is therefore a poem given to a non-fulfilled desire and imagination. I developed some other lines in an exercise book; I wrote a long poem and handed it over to him. Some made it into the published version and some did not. The first five lines would later be ‘pasted’ on a press board in the university in 2001 and the response I received made me decide to explore the theme of love much further. I continued rewriting now and again. Soon, the poem became entirely different from what it started out as, different from the first five lines. Perhaps, it is what I called a ‘memorial deviant’ of love in an interview I had with Dr Nereus Tadi (published in Matatu (No. 40).  It is no longer a poem for someone I had a crush on. The persona in the poem: ‘Ajani’ has become a good resource objectifying romantic love not only as an emotion, but a participant in the course of mundane human lives. More so, it gave shape to the idea of ‘reparations’ which I was pursuing as a book.

Uche Peter Umez: Sappho, that’s who I was thinking of when I first read your collection, which is intense and replete with erotic impulses, even though the themes you handled are purely political. Audre Lorde stated that the erotic approximates the “assertion of the life force of women”. Still, why did you appropriate an erotic metaphor to frame your poetry? What attracted you to this approach? Don’t you think it will detract from the political urgency in your poetry? Is there a dichotomy between the erotic and the political?

the raped vulva pleads for menopause,
oversexed vulvas beg for a sex-change,
against violence, your thrust on their impotent will.

Jumoke Verissimo: Yes, too many good literatures are replete with the trope of eroticism and this is rather different from soft porn. I have to explain something however, before I delve into answering whether the metaphor in the poetry would detract. First, I’ll like to say, I would love to use the word ‘sensual’ rather than erotic to describe my poetry. My preference for the word is that indicates an experience being imagined—something anticipatory in a desired emotion. In this case, the narrated is experienced. Eroticism, most times, is the experienced being narrated. That said, the Niger-Delta experience has made an advocate of too many Nigerians. I think this is one poem that came in later to the collection. The situation of the place was brought to life through some photographs which Muhtar Bakare and Yemisi Ogbe (editor of Farafina at the time) commissioned a particular photographer to take. The images were haunting and I wanted to know more. This was alongside the lackadaisical response of government to the issue— considering that the environmental policies that should protect a place like that. I was angry and desirous of change at the same time, because I was experiencing also the first-hand suffering of people ‘shuffering and smiling’ each time I was on a bus. Bus-stops housed numerous zombies who appeared not to know what to do with themselves as their humanity has been stripped away. The masses living in a horrible condition—such a state of destitution was haunting. I must say, it is not that the situation has changed; lives are still impoverished and people are still angry, but we now have Zombies seem living on a shot of false hope: this time we assume our humanity has been restored again. The rape was in the Niger-Delta, but the dehumanization went across borders. The shame of the rape was for us all.

As for the dichotomy between the erotic and the political, I would only say that emotion runs under one umbrella, it is the ‘weather’ that changes. In this regard, I will conclude that though passion might be different in context. I have since found eroticism as a voice to exact a metaphor that repugned an environment that denied logicality. I did not set off to use eroticism as a trope in my writing; it only answered the messed-up emotions in me.

Uche Peter Umez: How do you approach the process of writing a poem? Do you have a concrete image in mind, or you start a poem by playing around with a few words, expecting them to cohere into something of meaning? For you, what often comes first – words or image?

Jumoke Verissimo: I am not sure. I am at times inspired by a word on a page uttered or read from a book. There are days, an image inspires me. I once worked with a photographer, because I was trying to experiment how pictures inspire words. For my books, I love to work on themes and to do this; I meditate for long periods—viewing the subject matter from different angles until I am sure I have an idea of what I want to write about. The writing process has to be planned these days.  In many instances, I have a line come to mind and I play with the words until I have a picture of something I could interpret into a body of meaning. In this regard, for me, anything is possible—it could be words or image.

Uche Peter Umez: The ancient Greeks personified memory as a female Titan by the name of Mnemosyne. And it is quite interesting to note that Mnemosyne is the mother of the Muses. From your experience in writing this collection how does poetry make history memorable – seeing as you evoked a lot of remembrances? Is poetry an act of remembering “of dry bones that failed to rise” or “yesteryear’s wound”?

Jumoke Verissimo: I love to think that memory exists so that we can ‘disremember’. I have used the word ‘disremember’ because it is only a medium to place out of mind, rather than delete from it. The multi-dimensional lifestyle in contemporary time has placed memory as a result of our collective living experiment. In borrowing Roger Moseley’s phrase, although he was referencing music adaptability and extemporaneousness. I will like to borrow that phrase for this purpose. Poetry is: the “improvisatory fluency in historical idioms”.  History as a past would at times need reinvention and rendering of which poetry becomes a variable medium for actualizing this as a possibility.

Uche Peter Umez: Afam Akeh says, “Memory is the master griot stubborn with tales”, and in your collection I find this statement quite true, even truer in your poem “Mnemonics”, in which Calabar and Badagry signpost our colonial legacy. In Nigeria, however, there is a deliberate striving not to remember, to forget the “festival of transgression,” to evade our history. As a nation, it seems to me that we keep struggling against dealing with our bloody past. How, then, can poetry help us as a people not to keep “voyaging into waters of amnesia”, given our penchant for misadventures? Politics-wise, is this nation doomed to becoming another “generation of fief’?

Jumoke Verissimo: One of my favourite poetry lines is from Derek Walcott’s poem, “Origin”: “Memory in cerecloth uncoils its odours of river…” The imagery captures the entirety of the question you’ve asked.

You see, I have grown rather significantly from the time I wrote this collection, from being a very angry younger person in need of answers to all the social maladjustment around me. Today, still the questions I seek are yet to be answered. The present we live in is as bloody as our past—for me. We’ve only reinvented the past in series. Too many atrocities happen across the country; shared calamities like the Boko Haram, Niger Delta, social unrest, ‘Official’ Corruption, or is it  plane crashes due to ineffectual government policies, and of course personal ones like Armed Robbery, assassins, drug counterfeits, and the never talked about depression, which many Nigerians are presently suffering from! Nigerians are daily conversing with disillusion. In this situation memory is a revision of needs.

Uche Peter Umez: The late Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai said, “Women’s issues are environmental issues are issues of social justice. No separation.” How do you react to this? As a female poet, excuse my catergorisation, what do think is expected of you by the female sex? Is it to give voice to their fears, dreams and hopes? Is it to bear witness against male privilege and domination?
Jumoke Verissimo: You could as well ask me why I write. (LAUGH). Understandably, women issues are a confounding representation of many years of how sexual category has become an identity. That is why I must first state that I think women issues is a collective responsibility, and whoever you are and whatever you do, it is important to stand against injustice, if you believe in humanity. Well, if you look at it, don’t you think it is interesting that there are just two divides—male and female; and one would expect that both parties respect themselves to make progress in the environment, but in many cases, those who even raise the issues of desiring “equality” for women as “male privilege and domination” as effrontery and trouble making. Even with widespread public relations on this, we still have some tradition that makes many women timid by imposing subservience on them. Indeed, this is why your quote on Maathai is rather significant for the cheated becomes the stripped that strips what is around it. Summary: a society that does not take care of its women loses its environment and its future.

As for what is expected from me as a ‘female poet’ I must confess I do not know. However, I would rephrase that to be, how do I intend to make my writing a tool that represents the cause of women? To this, I would write, I have and would always stand against injustice in whatever form it comes.
Uche Peter Umez: There is a lot of energetic writing by many aspiring poets and social media have made it much possible for anyone to access these writings. You would have heard some older Nigerian writers sneering at the writing of your own generation of writers. How would you respond to that?  And what differentiates your poetry from the immediate generation before you? Do you feel connected to them in a literary sense?

Jumoke Verissimo: Well, I think this is something that has always been in the arts is for preceding generations to be condescending of the one before it.  Personally, I think it is simply a way of validating and perhaps, understanding their art better in the context of a newly developed intellectual culture which appears to ‘ease’ things for the younger generation. The coming of the internet has communalised knowledge and this appears to make our lives ‘easy’. The hypertextuality of the arts even makes it all the more complex for many who are still steeped in the debate that certain things are to be done ‘traditionally’. Culture is dynamic, and what I referred to as intellectual culture is not exempted. In this regard, I see the older generation as a foundation—and even in certain cases where they are still writing, a newer lens to view social issues from a different dimension. You know there is a Yoruba proverb that says; Agba gbon, omo de gbon la fi da Ile Ife: (Translated: The wisdom of the young and the old built the city of Ile-Ife; this is with a background that ancient Ile-Ife was a vibrant city). Anyway, any young mind that wants to grow would not abandon the wisdom of the old, and would most importantly, not walk away from the reality of her time also. I guess one just have to understand the idiosyncrasies of both categories and reinvent it, perhaps one might find audience among them. I’ve always believed if your art is true to self, it is valid for all.

Uche Peter Umez: In using graphic sexual images, especially in the poem, “The Rape”, what did you hope to achieve? Is this some sort of feminist agenda to draw attention to male violence – or man’s tendency to disfigure what is held beautiful and sacred? Finally, what is the future of poetry in Nigeria, since there is so little public support for the arts?

Jumoke Verissimo: Many women would see rape as the highest form of debasement that can happen to their body. The words that came showed the contempt I felt, in that degree—speaking for a land which had in the past, enjoyed enormous fertility and hope. In that regards, I opt for your second assumption ‘man’s tendency to disfigure what is held beautiful and sacred.’
I think the best thing that can happen to the future of poetry in Nigeria is for poets to continue to write poetry. The issue of poetry advocacy is something topmost in my mind, especially as we have no records to how many poetry books are published annually, and by whom. How then would we generate interests from sponsors? Do they even know what we’re doing?

Although, the first step would be an aggressive poetry advocacy and I think it is coming—though slowly. Small groups across the nation organizing poetry events and sharing their talents, as for publishing, we have more of online magazines like Saraba, NigeriansTalk, etc., sustained by the individuals with their own funds, a few publishing houses are genuinely interested in publishing poetry.  The structures for publishing are tilted towards prose, and the energy for poetry is much of a virtual world these days, and I can’t tell whether this is a good sign for now.  Perhaps, the poetry ‘saviours’ are online. (LAUGHS)

One thing though, the more aggressive the advocacy the better, as it would come to a point where the audience is sensitized enough to desire to make an input. People would support what they are passionate about, and have an understanding of.

Let’s do our bit. Every poet should write in journals across the globe. Organise events if you have some skills with that. Do something. In the process, the form will adapt and reinvent itself into some form of importance—perhaps then, it would find widespread support. We are all just doing our bits. And no, I won’t bring government not giving artists grants into this; although there are bodies that should ensure that ideas are traded to encourage art grants and foundation for poetry, and other art forms.

***

Uche Peter Umez is a poet and short fiction writer. An Alumnus of the International Writing Program (USA), Uche has participated in residencies in Ghana, India, Switzerland and Italy. He has twice been shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2007 and 2011, and was one of the winners in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition in 2006 and 2008 respectively. His latest children’s books The Boy who Throw Stones at Animals and Other Stories and Tim the Monkey and Other Stories have just been published by Melrose Books and Africana First Publishers (Nigeria) respectively.

“Hope in my Heart” – Documentary on Afro-German poet, May Ayim

May Ayim

From Afro-Europe, a documentary “Hope in my Heart“, on the late Afro-German poet, May Ayim [in German and English] in which she speaks of her life, her poetry and racism in Germany.  May Ayim’s father was Ghanian at the time studying medicine and her mother German.   She was initially placed in a children’s home and later adopted by a German family.  In her poem “afro-german I” she gives us an insight into her childhood experience of racism within her adoptive family and German society:

afro-german I

you’re Afro German?

…Oh I see: African and German

An interesting mixture, hug?

You know: there are people that still think

Mulattos won’t get

as far in life

as whites

I don’t believe that.

I mean: given the same type of education…

You’re pretty lucky you grew up here.

With German parents even. Think of that!

D’you want to go back some day, hm?

What? You’ve never been in your Dad’s home

country?

That’s so sad….Listen if you ask me:

A person’s origin, see, really leaves quite a

Mark.

Take me, Im from Westphalia,

and I feel

that’s where I belong….

Oh boy! All the misery in the world!

Be glad

You didn’t stay in the bush.

You wouldn’t be where you are today!

I mean you’re really an intelligent girl, you

Know

If you work hard at your studies,

you can help your people in Africa, see: ….

 

 

There is a deeper story of May Ayim in that she suffered from depression and had multiple medical problems.  After at least one  previous suicide attempt she finally killed herself by jumping on August 9th, 1996.

A poem on the joys & freedom of getting old

What Do I Get For Getting Old?  [A beautiful poem by Alice Walker on the joys and  freedom of getting old -  I followed instructions and supplied my own photo - see Alice Walker's photo here]

A Picture Story For The Curious
©2011 by Alice Walker

(You supply the pictures.)

Photo by Sokari

 

I get to meditate
in a chair
Or against the wall
with my legs
stretched out
(or even in bed!)

I get to see
maybe half
of what I’m looking at.
(This changes everything!)

I get to dance
like the tipsy old men
I adored
when I was an infant.
(They never dropped me!)

I get to spend time with myself
whenever I want.

I get to ride a bicycle
with tall
handlebars.
(My posture improves!)

I get to give up
learning to sail!
I get to know
I will never speak
German!

I get to snuggle all
morning
with my snuggler
of choice:
counting the hours
by how many times
we get up
to pee!

I get to spend time with myself
whenever I want.

I get to eat chocolate
with my salad.
Or even as a first course.
I get to forget!

I get to paint
with colors
I mix myself.
Colors
I’ve never seen
before.

I get to sleep
with my dog
& pray never to outlive
my cat.
I get to play
music
without reading
a note.

I get to spend time with myself
whenever I want!

I get to sleep
in a
hammock
under the same
stars
wherever I am!

I get to spend time with myself
whenever I want!

I get to laugh
at all the things
I don’t know
& cannot
find!

I get to greet
people I don’t remember
as if I know them
very well.
After all, how different
can they be?

I get to grow
my entire
garden
in a few
pots!

I get to spend time with myself
whenever I want.

I get to see
& feel
the suffering
of the whole
world
& to take
a nap
when I feel
like it
anyway!

I get to spend time with myself
whenever I want!

I get to feel
more love
than I ever thought
existed:
everything appears to be made
of the stuff!

I feel this
especially for You. Though I may not remember
exactly which You
you are.
How cool is this!

Still, I get to spend time with myself
whenever I want!

And that is just a taste
as the old people used to say
down in Georgia
when I was a child
of what you get
for getting old.

Reminding us, as they witnessed our curiosity about them, that no matter the losses, there’s something fabulous going on at every stage of Life, something to let go of, maybe, but for darn sure, something to get!

 

From the new book of poems: THE WORLD WILL FOLLOW JOY: Turning Madness Into Flowers - Spring 2013

***

Guys fucking guys…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lugardia kept us in limbo
Shackling us with sex in
Our see thru straitjackets

“You will marry the man
We choose for you,” said
My frantic father followed

By my mousey mother all
Silent, all compliant as
Ordained by masters of
old.

Lugardia for a colo-wife
Named us; unflatteringly
So. We still follow -such
frenetic waif; branded.

Then I came along stable.
Minding my own business,
Stable, in butch bliss, sort
of or worse.

Then came the turret:
“You’re a guy who fucks
Guys,” shouted a scared
man on the street;

“You are a woman like a
Man that gets any woman she wants! Don’t touch me, I’m not gay!”

He said paranoid as hell.
Nothing was said about
The birds & the bees not
Even bend over for one!

Balogun street is defiant
So are we supee butches!
What business of yours is
Who I bloody sleep with?

Get your head out of the
Sand of chaste civility.
Why do I walk a swagger
Wearing mens clothes?
Fuck off!

An empowered woman; As to, “guys fucking guys?” I’m no stooge of
Repression; y’all are
eternally imprisoned…
Mia Nikasimo (c) June ’09

Remembering Busi

Busi died on the 12th March 2007.  One of the few poems she published on her blog “My Realities”  was “Remember Me When I Am Gone” – This year I forgot the day but not Busi.  I think of her often as she was.

 

In November 2006 she wrote “No one can take it away from me”

The beautiful soul that i am
The creative genius that i am
The artist i was born to be
The good writer that i doubted
The storyteller and the original educator
Born to change the world, yes, i was
Born to relate my own happenings and mishaps
Given by GOD Almighty Himself
Its’s true i say “no one can take that awy from me”
The reviver of dead minds
The bearer of good news
The true master mind but, not a proud one.because
I only live to make myself and my GOD proud.
As for the people who are gossiping,muttering words and calling me names behind my back
Fuck them I say!
I was born like this
I was born to tell my tales
I give love to the people, my people
Black women of the continent of Africa
I shall be free one day
Free from the negative,stereotyped,crowded fucked up situations we live in.
A home we should call it.Well, its not for some of us
Its three roomed housed containers with walls closed up and closing up people’s minds
Because they believe, yes they believe
A man needs to work which is why every end of the month
He drowns himself in a beer drum & fights with the rest of the street and his family
He calls her names and tells her she’s a bitch
Because he buys her food, she dont see nothing wrong
Well, i refuse to tolerate such animals
Because i am a true and original Blessed queen
A woman full of love
A Goddess born to change their mindests
It is with me that they will realise
She was born for a reason
She was created for love, by love, for a woman
The woman within a woman
No one can take that away from me
I am who I am!!!

 

Busi along with Buhle Msibi who both died at the age of 25 will be remembered on 6th April 2013

Come Away My Love

For my parents

 

“Come Away My Love” by Joseph Kariuki 

Come away my love, from streets
Where unkind eyes divide
And shop windows reflect our difference

In the shelter of my faithful room rest

There, safe from opinions, being behind
Myself, I can see only you;
And in my dark eyes your grey
Will dissolve.

The candlelight throws
Two dark shadows on the wall
Which merge into one as I close beside you.

When at last the lights are out,
And I feel your hand on mine,
Two human breaths join in one,
And the piano weaves
Its unchallenged harmony.

WORDS BIG AND SMALL

 

rings and roses vanish, fleet and pass without leaving a trace.

but words are forever so, speak for this love lives on words

and words alone can ink themselves deep into my heart and

not rings, not roses, not a new house. no. no.

speak and i will live on your words, i will drink every word and i will

follow the breath of your lips to where it will land a new loving word.

no rings, no roses – they vanish, they fleet, they pass;

speak! and i will swallow your words deep into me

and make of them my core and essence. yes. yes.

keep speaking and giving me words big and small.

my darling artist, keep talking, writing and

painting your words and in all of them i will delight.

but like my Lord i will ask again that if you build me a mansion then you

should build it in the path of a flood.

Gendercide

Ova the poetry of Bernedette Muthien
gendercide

it took a full week
of straitjacketing generations
of genocidal femicidal trauma
for the clay dam wall to explode
and flood me in torrents
of collective grief
a poet with no words
a lifelong activist struck dumb
i choke on love for the dead
thousands of beautiful women and children a year
i puke for my incested cancerous country
and gag grappling for compassion of
perpetrators and the morally blind
in this breathtaking country
so brutally drenched in the blood
of ordinary women and children
i discover anew
that i fail to
swim
my spiritual cadaver
is dragged under by the concrete limbs
of victims perpetrators witnesses
majority blinkered burdens
too busy scrabbling for survival
to fight for justice
as i contemplate the imminent refreshment
of my childhood starvation
my hunger for food agency adventure
leads me to stare the dragon in its ambered eyes
like a mirror of my ever-present shadows
Demon! Patriarchy…
how can I love you to death…?

15 feb 2013
bernedette muthien - www.engender.org.za

PERSONAL HARM

in these few words i bind a durable promise,

one that will never be untied the way we

have become for i must promise myself better.

i hereby put the idea of you in quotations – “habibi”

- to make that notion hollow and rumored,

for i shall evermore recognize that i outgrew you.

and you can never know, make or change my mind.

you were a sin from the start, a sin i committed against my worth. read it again.

Andiswa Dlamini [Interview]

Andiswa Dlamini

Andiswa Dlamini is a spoken word poet and performance activist from Durban, presently living in Cape Town. After spending some seven years writing and performing her own poetry, Andiswa felt she needed to expand her work by becoming more creative. Recently she began experimenting with drama as a way of exploring her own identity as a woman and as a butch lesbian and how both of these are triggers for homophobic violence. Much of Andiswa’s work deals with gendered and homophobic spaces, and the physical circumstances in which lesbians are threatened whilst young men are unimpeded in carrying out their acts of violence.

Her latest work is a monologue, “A Part of Me”. Originally she had set out to write a play in which she tries to embody the mindset of a man who thinks corrective rape is right. However she found the challenge too difficult particularly as she herself had not lived in the township.  It would therefore be dishonest to attempt to portray her sisters who walk within the shadows of rape and murder. Instead she chose to write a play where she interrogates herself and asks what it mean to be a woman and a butch lesbian?

There is a belief by young men, that we [butch lesbians] want to be men. The poem ‘I resent you’ was written to challenge this myth.

I am not a guy and no matter how ‘butch’ a ‘butch lesbian’ is they will always have a feminine side. Guys seems to think that we want to be guys – we don’t. So what is the point of trying to correct that which is not real.  When I sit alone I have my own thoughts. I know I am a woman. I have feminine qualities and no matter how hard they think I am ‘trying to be a man, I have so much of the female factor so no guy should walk around thinking I want to be a man.”

I asked Andiswa whether she thought that the use of the word ‘corrective’ hyphened with rape, had in itself begun to be problematic. My thoughts, not wholly convincing even to myself were, that by creating a category of rape in the context of specific kinds of homophobic expressions, and applying it to a specific sexual orientation and or gender identity had somehow made that form of rape acceptable to some degree. In other words where it is not acceptable to rape a woman, it is acceptable to rape a lesbian, particularly a butch lesbian, because they are not seen as having the same rights of citizenship or community belonging as other women. Her response was that the word itself made her angry and is one that needs closer examination including who makes the decision to use certain words.

“Just knowing that the word exists raises questions in my head. Like whoever decided we are going to name this ‘corrective’ rape and make it known; I feel like it’s been made OK [guys themselves use that word to justify the rapes] Its been put in a category of its own as if its normal. Now guys go around as if they can excuse themselves ‘ah no it’s correct’. I don’t feel like that’s how they should be framing it.”

There is no simple answer but categorizing actions can be a way of simplifying and reducing acts to component parts we somehow can then manage. In a way its too easy, especially if it prevents us from looking at what is behind the word.

Much of how Andiswa feels about her own identities and the responses of both her family and men in general is expressed through her poem “I resent you”.

“The poem came out of the research for my monologue. I had to ask my family about the reality of coming out seven years ago. How did they feel then and how do they feel now. What did they accept then and what don’t they accept now. My sister said something interesting. She knew that’s who I was so it wasn’t such a shock to her. But she asked, why do you have to act so tough ‘like a man’, like a protective brother. If you want to show of your legs why don’t you wear a skirt or dress? Then she asked why I resented guys so much. I wanted to find out why she thought this because she kept repeating it. This made me think about how I socialise with guys. I realised that no, I don’t resent all guys, only those who try to convince me that I made a bad decision as if my sexual orientation was a choice. I feel it is hard to sit down with some guys because you don’t know when they are going to start  attacking you.  How do you engage with such people? So basically it was an explanation to my sister.

There are elements of the poem I really like such as the line “You are weak and she is stronger than you and that can never change, because she never once question her inadequacy in this life

It’s my favourite line because I don’t walk around thinking there is something inadequate about me. I think I am a human being. I feel that in order for someone to rape me they must be feeling inadequate about themselves. So I feel that line is very powerful.”