Six Poetry Books To Read For International Women’s Day 2019 1 466

If They Come For Us – Fatimah Asghar

‘one day may we be more than a body’

I’ll be honest:  I bought this based purely on the cover.  I saw the purple, the flowers, the group of entwined women and a quote from Nikesh Shukla and put it in my basket without looking any further.  I was not disappointed.  Each section starts with a poem called ‘Partition’ and these all explore the lasting legacy of the partition of India and Pakistan, but the poems also explore sexuality, femininity, family dynamics and politics.  Asghar also makes use of the page in innovative ways, with poems being laid out within floor plans, crosswords and bingo sheets. 

Short on time?  Seek out ‘Shadi’ about sexual assault and forced marriage, and ‘To Prevent Hypothermia’ about the importance of female friendships.

If Moments Were Places – Alicia Fernandez

One of the first things I ever said to Alicia was that I liked her necklace; about a year later, she gave me that necklace.  It’s fair to say I am a little biased in her favour, however the reason I talked to her in the first place was because she had just done the most beautiful set of poetry I had ever heard.  She has a way of weaving words into unexpected forms to make simple but devastatingly beautiful poems on love, loss, family and feminism.  If Moments Were Places chronicles parts of the poet’s life in Spain, America and the UK and her well-travelled words will take you with her wherever she goes. 

Short on time?  Seek out ‘Worth It’ about a breaking up and breaking in shoes and ‘Walk of shame in Seoul’ about not being ashamed walking home after a one-night stand.

#MeToo – edited by Deborah Alma

‘It is as if she sleeps on a girder; fearful of falling’

Created in response to the #MeToo movement with all profits going to Women’s Aid and edited by the Emergency Poet herself, Deborah Alma, this anthology is a must read.  A cornucopia of voices explores what #MeToo means to them, from investigations of the culture that permits male violence to recollections of experiences.  In turns heart breaking and hopeful, there is really something for everyone.

Short on time? Seek out ‘It Didn’t Mean Me’ by Gill Lambert, which looks at the microaggressions of toxic masculinity and #MeToo by Sarah Doyle about the difficulty in calling sexual violence what it is.

Taking The Arrow Out Of The Heart – Alice Walker

‘I myself do not believe in political parties’

Yes, that Alice Walker, author of The Colour Purple.  In her new poetry book she mixes autobiography with politics, waxing lyrical (literally) about activism, the environment and gratitude for what we still have.  In this new collection Walker proves she is still a relevant and gracious voice in our ever violent and ugly world.

Short on time? Seek out ‘They will always be more beautiful than you’ about the part envy and hate plays in political wars, and ‘The Lesson’ about the inadequacy of dismissing hatred as insanity.

The Dance Of A Thousand Losers – Genevieve L Walsh

‘the best bits of your life will have involved losers finding each other’

Gen Walsh is a punk poet, a performer through and through (and an all-round cool and lovely person).  Her sets are a tour de force of rich, northern culture with a goth edge.  The Dance of a Thousand Losers is in two sections, Lost and Found, and all the poems are characterised as much by what is said as what is not said.  Beautifully honest, painful at times and exploring love, loneliness and being a loser, Gen observes, comments and invites us to think critically about ourselves and the people around us. 

Short on time?  Seek out ‘From the ashes of a poet’ about rebirth and the weirdness of being a poet and ‘Contradiction’ about women who don’t fit neatly in a box.

The Worlds Wife – Carol Ann Duffy

‘Some nights I dreamed he’d written me’

Many of us studied Duffy, possibly this exact book, in school or college as she is currently the UK’s poet laureate.  As an openly gay feminist I fell in love with her immediately, to the point where I have a stanza of ‘Mean Time’ tattooed on my arm.  The Worlds Wife tells tales from the forgotten women in history; Mrs Freud, Mrs Aesop, Mrs Midas, etc.  She gives voices to women that have long been voiceless in myths and history, sometimes looking at their roles in the known stories and sometimes recasting them as instigators, saviours, manipulators, seducers.  By championing these unheard voices she also gives voices to the women reading them, to stand up, to be heard, to be a main character not a support act.

Short on time?  Seek out ‘Mrs Darwin’ a funny take on how Darwin came up with his theory, and ‘Frau Freud’ which largely compromises a list of funny words for penis.

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F. R. Kesby is a poet and storyteller from Leeds, England. She studies language and literature, teaches English as a foreign language as well as writing (and ranting) about feminism, LGBTQ+ issues, her life as a disabled person and, of course, Doctor Who. You can find more of her writing on Spoons and Toons.

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