She Speaks We Hear

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Book review: The Celox and The Clot — The debut collection of poems by Hafsah Aneela Bashir.

Aneela’s words are fierce, raw and compelling and urge us to find our voice within and use it to for the voiceless.

The Celox and the Clot  presents a myriad of emotions and tremors  with words, crafted into a living tapestry of truths, experiences and political injustice which have affected us all in some shape or form, especially those of us of colour.

Heritage and impacts of post colonialism are explored, through striking imagery and hard hitting metaphors which are hard to be dismissed or forgotten. 

We are compelled to confront the stark reality of terrorism very early on in the collection as we are reminded in the poem titled ‘Gulshan -i- Iqbal Park’ that the price of terrorism is that of innocent blood and we are left with heart wrenching images of murdered children.

Aneela’s words are fierce, raw and compelling and urge us to find our voice within and use it to for the voiceless. We are taken on a literary journey of tragedy, triumph and are left questioning the fragility of the human psyche, our identities and the politics of our modern world.

Aneela’s debut poetry lifts and inspires with the desire to acknowledge our wounds and sooth our scars both on the political and domestic front. The collection is a raw and poignant account on how to save the world and yourself. It leaves us with knowing that our vulnerabilities are our strength and despite the challenges we face we must rise above, lift others and find power in humility. 

Review by Soleha Khawar 

Soleha Khawar is founder of Street Hands a London based organisation driven by strong humanitarian values, our primary objective is to provide a voice for children trapped in the cycle of domestic violence hence the service model is based on prevention and intervention.

The Celox and the Clot is available to buy on Amazon

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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Book review: ‘Let Me Tell You This’ by Nadine Aisha Jassat

You know when you come across a poetry collection so good, you just want to go out and buy a copy for all your friends whether it is their birthday or not? Well, this is it!

‘Let Me Tell You This’ by Nadine Aisha Jassat is just so compelling, I kept on going back and re-reading each one and every time I did so, there was a new meaning, a new layer. Split into three sections; Hands, Words and Voice with each section taking on different aspect of Nadine’s journey in life and her relationships with those closest to her.

“There is so much raw, visceral passion in ‘Let Me Tell You This’ the reader is on a roller coaster all the way through…”

A child of dual heritage, Nadine talks about growing up with her mixed heritage, and doesn’t shy away from sharing the ignorance of her peers. ‘Conversation as Girls’ is layered with hidden, hurtful meaning “I’m glad my parents are the same, Pure Blood’ while ‘Things I Will Tell My Daughter’ may be the shortest of poems but packs a powerful gut punch nonetheless.

There is so much raw, visceral passion in ‘Let Me Tell You This’ the reader is on a roller coaster all the way through, whether it is sharing Nadine’s pain as a customer brands her fake-tan stained hands ‘Paki hands’ or when she talks about the racial and sexist abuse she receives from random men in ‘Hopscotch’. You can’t help but feel her anger, frustration, outrage but also marvel at her bravery and the way each poem leaves an imprint in your mind, so that you’re still thinking about the words, the meanings days later. 

Who said women of colour couldn’t speak out? Because if it is one thing that Nadine does well, it is to use her mastery over the English language in such a way, it will break your heart, soar your spirits and have you demanding more!

By Aisha Ali-Khan

‘Let Me Tell You This’ is available to purchase from Amazon.

Aisha Ali-Khan is a campaigner, activist and avid book reader. As a child of Pakistani migrants, she felt that there just wasn’t enough voices from black or minority backgrounds in literature with whom she could relate to and identify with while she was growing up. Later, as an English teacher, Aisha would use poetry to bring her lessons alive, and introduced her pupils to many new and upcoming authors and poets.

 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

 

 


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Book review: ‘What if it were you?’ by Elizabeth Arif-Fear

Image credit: Elizabeth Arif-Fear and Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers)

 The title of Elizabeth Arif-Fear’s excellent collection of poems, ‘What if it were you?’ is a reminder, if we need one, of the fragility of many women’s lives. Hopes and dreams may be shaped by the political landscape and the country we are born into. Often our belief in God is what helps to define us.

” It’s uncomfortable reading, the visual imagery is raw as if Ms Arif-Fear has cried her way through each stanza.”

The short verses of each poem pack a powerful punch through the exploration of FGM, free speech, genocide and mysogyny. Each poem is like a stick of dynamite, exploding myths and breaking down barriers. The force of the descriptive language literally takes our breath away.

It’s uncomfortable reading, the visual imagery is raw as if Ms Arif-Fear has cried her way through each stanza. The poetry is gripping; it’s a book which draws us through it at an incredible speed, as if you are on a train passing through the very worst and occasionally the best of human nature. The book contains stories of women that must be told, deserve to be applauded.

It is a book detailing the power of faith and the equality with which that faith is bound to. Elizabeth Arif-Fear seems to effortlessly step into the shoes of an unimaginably large number of women, each with their own extraordinary story. Her writing is so perceptive that it is as if we are taken on a journey through the depravity of the human soul. We do not leave unscathed, our senses are left reeling from the experience. Ms Arif- Fear has a gift for propelling the reader on a real life roller coaster through the streets of Syria, the UK and within the confines of any place where a woman is suffering.

Sometimes we are filled with despair, at other times we sniff a glimmer of hope for a future where true equality between women and men is a reality.

By Anna Hussain

Elizabeth Arif-Fear is also one of our regular contributors. ‘What if it were you?’ is available to buy on Amazon.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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Purple Flowers

imag1142Purple flowers,

Stand to the hours

Of the “No”s ­

And the fear.

 

Purple flowers

Acknowledge the loss,

From the unexpected 

Battle of nightmares.

 

Purple flowers 

Speak in colour, 

Out of the silence 

In monochrome.

 

They do not apologise 

For falling

Where no place to fall 

Should have been.

 

Purple flowers 

Rise in celebration 

Of my victory 

Within this story.

 

They lay unashamed 

Of vulnerability,

With both ability

To break

And to heal.

 

Purple flowers speak

Of the scars that remain, 

And the path that has led 

To the person I became.

 

Purple flowers

Stand to the day, 

When I realised

This was not the end.

 

By Chloe Knibbs

@ChloeKnibbs1

Since Chloe was little she has always loved words and stories, and has written poems since she can remember! She is also a composer and singer-songwriter, and loves using music to help and inspire people.


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Power from the Pain

Ice cracks

Thawing

Cold that was

But is there

No

More.

 

Torture and nightmares

Panics and horror

Irrationality

Loss – identity

Loss – confidence

Loss – reality

Crisis

 

The continuous cycle is

Paused

 

I breathe normally

Sensations come back

The ice within is consumed into water

 

I am controlled by me

No-one else

But by me

 

The cracks continue

The ice breaks down

It takes time

But I am happy to wait

 

Pain horror nightmares terror loss confusion crisis injustice disgust

 

A mixture bubbling under the surface

Behind the pretend face

The face that smiles

While the other one cries

 

I am happy to wait

Because I see its worth

To wait to know

To meet myself again

To know it is OK

 

I am in control

No-one else

But me

 

What I am is what I decide

What I want to be I can

Nothing is decided

Life can change

I can be free

 

I am in control

No-one else

But me

 

Pain horror nightmares anguish confusion terror loss injustice disgust violence

 

Never would anyone deserve these things

 

But they have happened

They happen all the time

And they have happened to me.

 

I understand now

I can say ‘I know’ and

Really know

What pain is

I can find the strength that was there all along

And use it

 

Enjoy it

 

I will know all these things and I will know it is there

 

I am in control

No-one else

But me

 

We change all the time

Time shifts with us

The same cannot really exist

Events will pass

 

Horror and ecstasy

 

Flash

 

Before us

I can see I can move

Through time itself

Tick past the horror

Tock past the nightmares

They will not stay with me forever

 

I am free

I can be who I want to be

I always could

But now I know

That I could

And should

 

We all deserve the same

 

When I say ‘I know’

now

I really know what pain is

It will define the other

The real happiness

 

I am free

Nightmares end when you wake up

I will not sleep forever

 

I will open my eyes and see

How I can make the world work for me

I will know it is OK

 

I am in control

No-one else

But me.

 

By Chloe Knibbs

@ChloeKnibbs1

Since Chloe was little she has always loved words and stories, and has written poems since she can remember! She is also a composer and singer-songwriter, and loves using music to help and inspire people.
Image credit: David Kingham


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Where do we stand with Rape on Our Screens?

by Sabrina Mahmood

(Trigger warning: this article contains references to rape, which may be distressing for some)

 

Have you ever seen ‘The Last House on The Left’? It’s classified as a horror film, and being a well-known name in the horror world, I decided to watch it. When I read the info on the back of my dvd case, it mentioned something about an isolated house and a family, so I assumed it would fit the bill of many similar films where people go to an isolated house and get haunted or killed by the strange locals.

The_Last_House_On_The_Left_Promotional_Poster
Theatrical release poster

The film started off like any other, but halfway through there was an unimaginably traumatic rape scene. It was completely unexpected, and although the film is rated 18, I did not ever imagine witnessing such horror. The scene continues for over 3 minutes, showing in gruesome detail a minor watching his father rape another minor with the help of his girlfriend.

That sounds horrific doesn’t it? It was. Absolutely and brain numbingly horrific. I thought about why anyone would want a visualisation or to depict an image like this in such detail. Was it to get viewings and ratings? Was it to make the film more credible, more ‘extreme’ than any other horror film. Horror as a category is not always about ghosts, but in the main there is supernatural influence or senseless killing by deranged humans. Even if there is a rape scene it is insinuated or referred to verbally but I had never seen anything like this. It left me with so many questions.

Is this what we accept in society? That to make something more exciting or watchable or to have higher ratings, we incorporate graphic rape scenes and sexual violence. It’s massively important to talk about these issues in our society, and to make sure that our children know about rape, but in an appropriate fashion. By showing it in such detail, do the moviemakers desensitise us to it? So that the next time we watch a tv show or film that shows a rape scene, do we say ‘it was just a rape scene’. Because it’s not ‘just’ anything.

Rape ruins lives and I guess it’s the same argument that parents use when they don’t want their children to watch violence on tv, because unknowingly they start to mimic it. I’m not saying that we will all become rapists by watching rape scenes, but merely that when societies’ impressionable and often vulnerable people see these acts of sexual violence as an ‘exciting aspect’ of a film or tv show, will it make them look for similar ‘exciting’ experiences in real life?

Does the graphic depictions of rape on our screens stem from a wider rape culture that exists in society? If we look out our music charts as an example, the song ‘Blurred Lines’ in 2014 peaked at number one in 14 different countries. The uncut (explicit) version of the video features fully nude women and the censored version has ‘censored nudity’. When did it become okay to show a naked women on any other platform but porn? And even then it was acknowledged that this was reducing women to mere sexual objects! The song’s key theme is pushing boundaries with women and there is an undertone of coercion.

Robin Thicke, TI and Pharrell performed 'Blurred Lines'. Image credit: http://thompsonhall.com/copyright-lawsuit-blurred-lines/

Robin Thicke, TI and Pharrell performed ‘Blurred Lines’. Image credit: http://thompsonhall.com/copyright-lawsuit-blurred-lines/

 

Robin Thicke sings;

‘What do they make dreams for

When you got them jeans on’

 

He insinuates that the womens’ choice of jeans are merely as a tool to be provocative in seducing men. The lyrics and video itself completely objectify women, making them sound as though they are purposefully seductive for men to ‘blur lines’ with. Yes it’s catchy, but when you consider the real message of the song, it becomes sinister. That song stayed in the top of the charts for months, and it’s not just in music, even on our TVs and basic advertising that we are exposed to on a daily basis. We’re constantly shown images of women which turns them into objects and this contributes to the the way in which women and girls are viewed less equally to men, in wider society. Isn’t it time that we took back our bodies?

Below is a short spoken word poetry piece, that I wrote which considers the embodiment of rape culture and how widespread and normalised it is in todays’ society.

Isn’t it okay to be real?

Isn’t it time we stopped
pretending that it’s okay
to judge a woman on her beauty
and not the strength of what she says
only cup size that matters
her intellect dismissed
if she wants to succeed
seal the deal with a kiss
it’s a time old concept
take a woman as a book
before you’re quick to judge
at least give it a proper look
read between the lines
get to know the real story
before you assume
that the cover is its glory
every single place we go
models and adverts
selling woman after woman
in an industry of perverts
because they say that sex sells
but don’t they have daughters
born from a womb
it’s the mother that taught us
shatter the ceilings
and don’t ever stop trying
when your told that you can’t
show them strength without crying
but most important thing of all
never take off your clothes
selling your dignity
while they show no remorse
because every woman is honour
but they want to create ‘whores’
feed into pornographic ideals
making us forget what’s real
just imagine
one of the most successful females
emerged from a sex tape
and while hers was a choice
so many come from rape
as a society we accept
that it’s a claim to fame
but shouldn’t we be showing our women
that they don’t have to perform acts
of submission and shame
isn’t it about time
we drop the patriarchy
show everybody that education
is the only real hierarchy
and that your looks or your hair
it doesn’t matter what’s there
or not
or whose hot
I mean who are we to decide
when we don’t even know what’s inside
it’s about time
we create a new ideal
I mean
Isn’t it okay to be real?

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Image credits: Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines image taken from http://thompsonhall.com/copyright-lawsuit-blurred-lines/  and ‘The Last House on the Left’ image taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_House_on_the_Left_(2009_film)