The woman in the moon

and we said

try with all your might

to hold yourself up in this world

should you fall, do so quietly, lest

you disturb this delicate status-quo

do not be loud, do not make a fuss

these are things only rude people do

like those who talk on phones loudly

in confined spaces

penguins with plastic attached to their beaks

yak yak yak they go

but nobody seems to tell them to

shut it

and the propriety of life

misses a stitch

a heart beat

a compassionate rinse

through the annals of time

thinking of how we have always

stifled valuable voices

in favor of noise

putting up with the yak and not

the desperate drum beat of a woman

unraveling

she has spun her loom

throughout the city and its artifices

with alacrity and the sweat of female

labor, she has borne her children and

created a field of poppies, that threaten

to dazzle the very sun

she has grown her hair long and matted, until

it is thick enough to reach the moon

where she sits

howling

at the ravages of life

permitted at last

to possess

a voice

The rhyme of girls who skin their knees

She always knew she was a girl

by the way older women treated her

their higher standards expected

than if she were a boy

for boys … could climb trees and expose their underwear

while she was scolded and told not to be ‘a little harlot’

boys came barreling in full of spunk and fury

exhibiting their mirth with muddy feet

to ladies who smiled indulgently and patted their

ruffled heads

glancing over at her, with disapproving eyes

and a tut of the chin which said; “I hope you are not

going to track that mud into the kitchen and if you do

be prepared to clean it up. What kind of girl climbs

trees and gets herself full of dirt?

The unspoken and the spoken

those days she sought sympathy when her heart

felt like bursting

responses varying from; “maybe you didn’t ‘try hard

enough, you should apply yourself next time” to “don’t

go on about your problems so much, we all have problems

you are not the only one!” While they fretted and discussed

the poor boy whose horrible girlfriend left him

how grief stricken he was afterward, they could do nothing

it was so hard to watch

not difficult at all to watch her fall

almost amusing

almost delightful

female expectations a bar far too high

even for a gymnast

whilst boys ran beneath it

in spastic freedom

from the quiet exceptionalism of their gender

through the eyes of a woman

she learned early on

to keep her thoughts and wishes to herself

for each vulnerability would be handled roughly

turned against her like a shard of glass

piercing deep

she learned, to do for herself as the boys

were fed, dressed, coveted, admired, flattered

and grew fat and indulgent on it

rather like farm yard pigs

she grew strong in that way pain lends

a thin weed

trying to survive by the side of a busy road

filled with fumes and cars belching their poison

yet she knew if she wanted to survive

she could not walk along that road

by herself, taking short cut

through fields, because that’s where

women were raped

among thorny bushes, hands reaching out

grasping for them, hungry and snarling

she was told it was her fault if she

succumbed and her fault if she died from

fighting them off and her fault if she was

there when she shouldn’t have been

but nobody said it was their fault

or asked them to explain

why after being fed, clothed, petted and cossetted

by women

they chose

to make women their victim

no, that nobody had an answer for

maybe if they did, they would say

women did this to them, poor dears

it’s not the fault of a man! He was spoilt

and that’s a woman’s fault! She didn’t

teach him correctly, he had no choice!

And all the women who gave her

cross looks when she came in with her knees

scuffed from climbing a wall or when she ran

ungainly across the lawn and they chided her

for being ‘unladylike’

smiled at the fattened calf and said

oh my daughter would be so lucky

to marry a man like him! If only she

tried, a little harder.”

ecstasy is the iris and the onyx

Oh no

don’t

dare write it

honestly, I’m warning you

don’t do it.

Haven’t you been listening?

People (that’s the noise you hear outside your cardboard box)

don’t (that’s a definite by the way)

want . to . hear. about. you.

Frankly? They’ve had it up to here

(or even higher, if you stand on a chair, but mind you don’t tip over)

with the words of women who possess

white skin, light colored eyes, a middle class background

or something approximating (after all, the middle class are dying, they are

collapsing under the weight of holding up a false fabric and you can see

the lie of it, peaking from underneath a pretend sky, yellowed with time)

you are not

in the trenches anymore, you safe, safe feminist

you are yesterday’s news wrapping up cold fish n’ chips

we read your forebearers already (sometimes I too found them depressing and self-involved)

the ones who (drowned themselves with stones in their felt pockets)

the ones who (put their heads in the oven, miraculously keeping their stockings from running and their lipstick without a smudge

the ones who (had privilege even as they thought they were dispossessed and impoverished by the stern buckle of man)

the ones who (could get a university degree, were not turned away from being served at a restaurant in Cambridge Massachusetts only last year, with #BLM on the brick wall a few streets down, what a fucking irony that was)

So until you are (a person of color on the OUTSIDE where people can decide to treat you with respect or shit on you from their delusion of superiority)

until you are (condemned, mocked, belittled, ignored, rejected, for that skin)

until you know (what it’s like to grow up without any money, security, education, safety, prospects)

we’ve heard you and we’re bored of you and we don’t want to hear anymore

click

dial tone

letter unopened

goodbye sender.

It is 2021. The worn shellac from the withering year before has

begun to buckle, we don’t know what to expect, we only know

what we can no longer tolerate, even as our ivory towers

continue to hum with the incessant, nascent buzz of egos

bathing in each other’s radiance (but they are too far away to really count)

(aren’t they?)

those left in the shadow, carrying mixed-genes in multicolor packages

drugs on the tongue, under strobes, nobody can tell where you’re from

ecstasy is the iris and the onyx

pick up their belongings and leave town for good

they are done with Pushcart trollies of people

bartering and bantering, blinkers full on

creating a better world out of the same blunt tools

we used last time to ill effect (putting people in jars, saying who is and isn’t worthy, over compensating and then rejecting those who were and now are not)

it makes them laugh and then cry, if they think on it

but they do not think on it often, they are focused instead

on walking without shoes and how, by doing so,

they feel everything

maybe even the smooth stones in Sylvia’s pocket (was it really felt? Or fur? Is fur allowed?)

as they eat their Vegan treat and rub their foreheads clean

of Athena’s damning pinprick.

THE KALI PROJECT is published!

CONGRATULATIONS THE WAIT IS OVER … The Kali Project is LIVE and print copies are for sale via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kali…/dp/1951724062/ref=sr_1_1…

For the first time ever we have also made the publication available via an Indian distributor Pothi, enabling our Indian readers to purchase copies locally:https://store.pothi.com/…/candice-louisa-daquin-editor…/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kali…/9781951724061…

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/…/the-kali…/1138632460…

A hard cover version and Kindle will be forthcoming. KALI will also be for sale in Book People & BookWagon and you can order The Kali Project via your independent bookstore (via The Ingram Group).

PLEASE consider purchasing a copy to support this worthy project AND upload any pre-press reviews you have written to help us succeed in getting this incredible book out there.

Contact Megha Sood or Candice Louisa with any questions. Thank you so much to everyone involved, especially Christine Elizabeth for her incredible formatting of The Kali Project.

The Kali Project is a nearly 600 page collection of some of the most famous Indian poets and writers and artists in the world, as well as acolytes, children, teens, and new writers, coming together to create a groundbreaking anthology of writing and art.

The purpose of The Kali Project was to highlight inequality in all forms, speaking to sexism, racism, caste-inequality, gender, income, education. The value of these potent poems and artworks will be immediately obvious and we really hope you will consider being part of The Kali movement by purchasing a copy and leaving a review.

Audio readings by the authors of The Kali Project, reading their work featured in the anthology:

Submit to The Kali Project

I am editing another Anthology in collaboration with CrossTree Press called The Kali Project.

If you are an Indian woman Poet/Artist (or you know of one who may be interested, either in India or internationally) please consider submitting work to The Kali Project. This anthology is a collection of poetry, prosetry, and artwork from women of Indian heritage, in response to the courageous determination of Indian women to gain full equality in India.

Subjects to consider writing about include but are not limited to: Feminism, equality, political upheaval, women’s-rights, sexual violence, LGBTQ rights, gender identity, violence, marriage, concepts of Indian female identity, inequality at the workplace. Change.

The Kali Project is open for submissions until October 22, 2020.

You can submit up to THREE poems and THREE pieces of artwork.

Please submit poems with your full name as the title in Word.

If you are interested in submitting for the front cover of The Kali Project your painting will be considered for the front cover and/or inside the anthology. The cover will be color. The inside is black and white. All artwork needs to be able to be reproduced in black and white.

Please note CrossTree Press is a women-run, discrimination-free publishing house based in the USA. The Kali Project will be published in Winter 2020 and will be available via Amazon in Kindle & Print format.

Any questions / or for submissions please email: submissionscrosstreepress@gmail.com

Please share this post widely. Thank you very much. For more information please join The Kali Project anthology site on Facebook. Or follow my personal Facebook page.

WHAT WE VALUE

Our society worships entirely the wrong animal, venerating them and reducing others to ash.

The news recently devoted a good portion of the sports coverage to how much money certain sports figures were going to be paid for kicking a ball across a field. And this in a time when our jobs are dissolving, our society is being wrecked, our economy may be irrecoverable and certain industries will cease to exist en mass. Put simply, there will not be jobs to come back to folks but apparently we still need to pay these guys billions for their service to humanity?

I cannot understand how ANY society and how any of us can tolerate/accept a sports figure being paid anywhere NEAR that sum for what they do when those who really do jobs worth paying, are dying in droves because they are not receiving enough personal protective gear to protect themselves.

When did we start paying someone to kick a ball millions and a nurse who saves our life, hundreds?

What’s wrong with us?

If I were an alien observing our planet, I would seriously wonder if we all were crazy in our assessment of VALUE. What we value. What we do not. If nothing else, Covid-19 has given us a chance to see this once and for all and try to do something about it.

We have marched for Black Lives Matter during this time because it was over-due and our raw emotions on the subject burst out of their polite shell and filled the streets with ire and a desire for equality but how many of us really want equality? Not all of us that is for sure, look around and you can see it in every facet of life, a desire to be above someone else somehow.

We still routinely under-react and permit by our inaction, serious hideous crimes like rape to go unpunished in this country and others.

It’s the year 2020 and we still think inequality for women is acceptable in some forms and fashion. Let us not forget what Maya Angelou said about wanting to vote for a white woman over a black man. She said – women were the original oppressed group, thus we should work backward until all oppressed parties are equal. I agree with her.

We still think hate crimes against Jews and telling Jews that Israel should not be their country is somehow acceptable, despite those Jews having descended from that country. Would we say the same to Black People about Africa. Of course not! So why do we say it to Israel? Because of the Palestine Question which Europe in particular has decided to side with, uncaring of the history of persecution toward Jews and their right to have some land of their own. Of course we shouldn’t persecute Palestinians either and of course, Israel has made mistakes but it’s now about what optics politicians choose and what side of the story is half-revealed via inaccurate news reporting. It’s essentially about which side looks right to support? Because Trump supports Israel, most left-wing supporters are against it. Yet it is not that simple and never should be. Lest we forget our history.

We still think homosexuality is unnatural and abhorant and that being queer isn’t natural. We don’t say it out loud because it’s not popular to say it, but we think it and we act it and gays know. They know.

We talk about slavery and how horrific it was, but half the time we just pay lip service to the deeper issues, because we don’t know our history so we don’t mention Native Americans and how they were exterminated en mass and continue to be disenfranchised. We’re so proud of ourselves for changing the Red Skins but we think that’s enough. Or how slavery has never really gone away, it’s just changed hands and outfits, but it’s still well and thriving in many forms.

So it’s never enough. Until everyone is equal and inequality and racism are a thing of the past. But will they ever be? With people who seem to thrive on discrimination and putting themselves ahead of others and putting others down? If people think wearing a mask is too much, is it any wonder they really don’t give a shit if you are sick or you are vulnerable? Don’t they just want you to die and bugger off?

Likewise with illness, with chronically sick people, it’s never enough to just have laws that allow them to not be discriminated against because discrimination comes in a myriad of differing forms. Subtle. Unreachable. Devastating. People of color have to put up with this EVERY SINGLE DAY as do women, as do gays, as do sick people. Just one roll of the eye says everything. Says; ‘we think you are pathetic‘ invalidates an entire moment.

Chronic illness is a little like amputation. Obviously anyone who has suffered an amputation will refute this and rightly so. But metaphorically it remains akin to the loss of a limb. You are left flailing, unsure of how to right yourself, and continue as once you were. A part of you is lost.

They talk of periods of adjustment. The stages of grieving: Anger for what you have lost. Shame imposed by a society who now judges you weak. Acceptance of a ‘new normal’ that includes intolerable things such as chronic pain etc. For many, those stages of grieving never really end, they cycle and you go through different dilutions depending upon how you progress.

But progress is perhaps not the right word. In our linear society where so much is expected. For someone to drop off and no longer thrive, in nature they would be left behind to perish. In our society they are carried along but reminded frequently, of their burden, of their ineptitude.

For many who suffer mental illness, physical illness, both, there is a lot of shame attached to their existing after this fact. Even as people do not come out and say it directly (and believe me, many do!) there is a thin veil that is easily penetrable. People know when they are treated differently, seen differently, worse, judged without jury.

Being ‘sick’ in any manifestation is seen as a ‘weakness’ by our society. This invariably goes back to the ‘dog-eat-dog’ notion of surviving. The weakest link perishes or is a burden to the whole. But these days, with our so-called faith and mercy in place, one might imagine a little more compassion? And if you did, you would be sorely disappointed.

Since getting sick in 2017 I have felt intermittently well enough to continue working and ‘accomplishing’. But as with any pendulum, when it swings deeply toward illness, I am right back at the horror point of when it all began, down on my knees, imploring the universe for healing. And for the most part I have done this alone, because as all those who have been sick for a time will attest, most people do not stay by your side. Even those you expect to.

You can’t plan any longer. A trip is a fear because what if you get sick? Then someone suggests; maybe it’s in your head, maybe you are making yourself sick? And no matter how many times you prove otherwise, they think maybe it’s a choice, just like being gay is a choice, right?

Wrong. You can’t rely upon yourself like you used to because you never know how it’s going to be, how you are going to be. And usually you could be relied upon 100 percent and now that’s gone and somehow you still have to plan a future, but how do you plan a future if you can’t rely upon yourself?

I try to take something from every experience I have, including negative ones. Without learning we don’t grow we just regurgitate and I would rather grow even if I’m throwing up and in pain as I do it. I have taken from this experience what is obvious, but I have also tried to take from others experiences, and have noticed disturbing patterns among those I know who have also been sick for a while or a very long while.

People leave.

People don’t care.

Poverty goes hand in hand with illness.

Anxiety and fear are natural outcomes for a plethora of reasons.

Loneliness can kill.

What I have come to see is this. Sick people are TRUE WARRIORS.

They fight the unimaginable that most of us never have to endure. They have to get pacemakers in their 40s, they have to struggle through taking 2 hours to get dressed and STILL MANAGE TO SHOW UP and this strength – this strength is what I have learned the most from my experiences and listening to others. Strength comes in many forms. We dismiss most of those forms but they are real.

I watch people who have seizures and brain tumors, fight and fight and fight and I realize, we’ve got it backwards. We should be applauding these people not marginalizing them. But we do everything backwards, because as a whole we are poisoned by false ideas of what is valuable and what is not. We toss aside those we deem un-valuable when they are perhaps some of the most valuable people in the world.

So if you are disabled in any way, be it in your head, or your body, remember that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world. Let nobody ever let you forget that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world.

This is written for my sister Angie. You inspire me every single day. You are that light in the dark that refuses to give up and because of you, I refuse to give up too.

Why stay out so long?

You hear the complaint quite frequently; Why do you have to talk about being gay all the time? Can’t you just leave it be?  You can see the point in theory: Who would need to announce to virtual strangers that they were any kind of ‘minority.’ Isn’t that just inflating a point and shoving it into people’s faces, which can increase existing or potential resentment?

We could argue that even needing to ‘be out’ and admit to being gay isn’t necessary and causes negative-attention, but if this is your observation think on this: Everyday people get out so that others can, causing a chain-reaction, until eventually, what was once considered unnatural, is considered natural. That’s because exposure to things that are unfamiliar, resolves underlying anxieties more than any academic discourse achieves.

I am often asked: When you can’t physically hide being a ‘minority’ you have no choice,  and if you do have a choice, what’s wrong with taking it? I lived in the closet on-and-off for a variety of reasons for several years and got so used to not being harassed and tormented that it became a false comfort. It resolves nothing and the shame when you understand the absence of honesty, runs deep. Change comes from a desire to engender change, in the words of Eckhart Tolle: “To love is to recognize yourself in another.” Gays need to exist openly to give non-gays opportunity to see we’re no different.

When we look at racism, studies show racism actually reduces when African-American’s moved into previously exclusively white neighborhoods. But it didn’t happen immediately. The immediate response was one of resentment, anger and prejudice, and white Americans resented the influx of African-American’s initially. But in time, that resentment gave way to acceptance and even integration. It took the courage of those black families deciding to move into neighborhoods that didn’t warmly welcome them, it took the courage of their staying put and not letting prejudice run them off, to effect change.

Much of this is about gays being able to hide, whilst other minority groups like African-American’s cannot. There is a reason why gays should not hide, because in hiding we are one less face fighting the good fight. Why a fight you may ask? Because if a gay person were to really ask for equality they still would not get it, if gays were to ask to be accepted for who they are, some would, and some would not. And as long as that inequality exists, our voice must protest its existence or nothing changes.

As gays we may not run the risk being led-away in chains in the US today, but go to another country and there’s no guarantee. It doesn’t mean as gays we can walk the streets proudly without fear of reprisal, and that would include any city in America. Sounds a lot like Benjamin Franklin’s famous perspective: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In other words, we should ask: Is it brave to hide and weak to protest? And if so, when did that become normalized?

As long as any type of inequality exists, all gay people remain a minority who have somehow to justify ourselves. People roll their eyes, espouse that we should shut up and stop talking about it and things will surely get better, but as history tells us, this rarely happens. For example, every time women make this choice, they take a step backward, same with any minority. Exhibit a; the increase and normalizing of pole-dancing to keep husbands content. Would the original Women’s Movement of the 1970’s have approved or thought this progressive?

If you are not convinced, look as the relative silence of Hispanics in the US as a good example of why they do not have the voice of African-American’s despite being in greater numbers. If you don’t speak for yourself, who will? If you don’t believe in equality for yourself, who will? And most of all, if nobody will defend you, who is left but yourself? I think of the quote by Jiddu Krisnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well—adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Better by far, to change what ails, surely?

Ask any Hispanic in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about a necessity for equality, ask any Jewish person in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about the Holocaust. When did our society become so intolerant to historical truths? Perhaps it’s the old adage, those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it? Our lack of patience for realities, past and present, says more about our lack of compassion. Is it because until we experience things for ourselves we cannot see the value of anyone else’s perspectives?

In an increasingly selfish society, change comes best when people see it and are forced to live with it. Parents of gay children, people with gay friends, tend to become slowly more habituated and tolerant of gays even if formerly anti-gay. But ask yourself, is it enough to be ‘tolerant?’ True change is where we stop seeing differences as potentially negative.

During the years, like many others, I’ve been told I’m a pervert, I’m psychologically ill, I’m a man-hater, I’m afraid of true relationships, I’m just reacting to childhood abuse, I’m in a phase, I’m disgusting, I’m obviously a child-molester, and many other things. I’ve had female friends who are afraid of me, thinking I will molest them, and male friends who want to “sex me up” to help me learn the value of heterosexuality. I’ve done things I never thought I would do just to be, who I am. So if we talk about having to explain who we are, it’s really the gay person who is pushed to justify why they are gay, especially as it’s still considered by many to be a choice.

Being gay has always existed. Penguins can be gay. It is one of those things you wouldn’t wish on anybody in the way it’s currently handled in societies throughout the world, but you can’t really say you would wish it away, because it’s like saying you wish you weren’t who you are. Even in this so-called-world of liberated values, gays are killed every week, in certain countries I would be put to death, in others I would be set upon, in others I’d be spat at, in others I’d be jailed.

Just think about that for a moment. When it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry those that did get together, had children who were shunned by both groups. How is it very different for gays who continue to lie to families who would otherwise cut them out of their lives, or lie to their employer so they would not be squeezed out? Or are unable, despite the length and value of their relationships to marry, whilst heterosexuals who have just met, can marry at the altar of Vegas.

Being gay isn’t all hunky-dory just because there are some laws that protect us. In fact often after the passing of a law, anti-gay sentiment rises up, out of frustration. See France as a recent example of this and the anti-gay under-current that exists in relatively liberal Canada. For every step forward, there are many steps back. Think how it would feel to know mass protests occur because people hate you and think you are unnatural? In many countries and states, gays cannot legally adopt, we are treated as inferior, unequal, unnatural and still can’t be the normal we know we are.

Even those who profess to be comfortable and accepting, often aren’t quite so and this makes it very hard to trust people and know how much you can share with them. I didn’t sexually desire my female friends, and most gays aren’t more lascivious than anyone else but if you watch the news, most anti-gay rhetoric labors the point that gays can’t be Boy Scout Leaders because they are sexual deviants and other stereotypes that are so wide-spread as to be commonly accepted by the majority. Usually gays suffer higher rates of depression due to these subtle undercurrents that undermine personal value and security.

Ask yourself; if you were gay would you feel comfortable walking hand-in-hand or kissing in public as you would if you were heterosexual? Let’s not forget when everyone’s relaxed, how funny jokes are that involve gay-themes, but imagine how those jokes would be received if they were racist? Why is one widely accepted and the other not? What is difference in the root of prejudice of both? Not having equal rights under law, is like the law saying you are not worthy of equality, and as the Supreme Court when reviewing gay-issues recently questioned, maybe it’s too soon for equality for you! Since when is equality ever too soon?

It is just as hard being a person of color, being a woman, being disabled and a plethora of other things, but few would feel it were justified to say a black person had no right to bemoan his or her inequality, and if they did say that, there are laws to protect that person and labels to explain their prejudice. Few would be proud to admit to being racist, but many would think nothing of being labeled a homophobe, it’s almost a badge of honor.

That said, many inequalities exist, and that does not justify the existence of any inequality. I am often told, well there is still inequality for people of color and women, as if somehow that justifies inequality of any type. Surely like any chain-reaction, equality should come from every sector and merge together to create a strong river of change. That’s one reason all minorities should see the value of others.

Let’s not forget people who worry, equality for gays will open the door to equality for polygamists, pedophiles and other deviations. They argue that such predilections could be eventually sanctioned on the same basis as gay equality. I disagree on the grounds that being gay does not harm anyone and multiple marriages can.

We could argue this forever, but ultimately it comes down to the validity of a harmless relationship versus one of unequal power. Yes all relationships are subject to abuse and we’re going to see negative portrayals of gays, things we’d never sanction, but that’s no different to the negative portrayals of heterosexuals and speaks more of human fallibility.

Currently there are no laws to protect gays. We can be fired for being gay, we can be imprisoned in certain countries for being gay, we can be thrown out of our house and lose everything including the right to make medical decisions and attend the funeral of our partner. This happens, it happens far more than anyone realizes.

When the family of one gay person is anti-gay and that person gets sick and needs constant care, the family can remove that person and deny access to their partner, no matter how many years they have been together, this isn’t protected in those places where gays are not able to marry or have a civil union. Should we really be grateful for some equality when the only equality that truly matters is full equality?

I ask that if you can’t see why equality doesn’t yet exist and should exist including all forms of equality (such as being able to marry in a church regardless just as blacks have demanded the same rights in marrying in formerly racist churches or ones who would not permit interracial marriages) adopt and many other things, you consider now.

Initially I saw no reason to ‘force’ churches to accept gay marriages because I felt they had the right to choose whom they wanted to marry. I realized that if I were a black man wishing to marry a white woman it would be wrong for a church to turn us away, and validate the negativity of prejudice, and that’s why the law protects such racism. Surely this must equally apply to gays or we’re saying our right to avoid prejudice isn’t as necessary.

We can’t stop with just the first step of equality; it has to exist as much as for you, and you, and you. For all of us. For all those who will come after us, so one day a child is born into a world that hopefully doesn’t know what inequality is. Yes at times that will be repetitive, even boring, but it’s necessary in every struggle for equality, and if we make it fashionable to keep our mouths shut and just hope for the day things change, we will be waiting a very long time.

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Hoda Essa

Hoda Abdulqadir Essa is a New Orleans native with roots hailing from East Africa. Hoda is a maker, writer, lover, shapeshifter and soul traveler, searching for heaven or hoping to construct it with her own bare hands.

How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing? 

As a poet, I’m consistently working from a place that many people call “emotional intelligence” – in other words, I am dreaming out loud when I open my mouth or put pen to paper. So, for me, being a poet comes with a subtle responsibility to always tell the truth. Poetry is not a soundbite nor is it a news-clip. To me, poetry is the rhythm that lives in each person individually. It’s important to express that and writing is a powerful medium to do so.

When you found out SMITTEN was about women who loved women, without the emphasis on erotica that is usually the case – could you immediately think of ways to express that love through writing? 

Absolutely! My friend and I talk about bringing intimacy to life and to me that is what art is. No one has ever written ballads about an intellectual conversation they’ve had but we pause to capture the gentleness of a lover’s brush against your own skin – to me writing is a way at grasping moments that we ultimately have no language for. The erotic, especially, can be more greatly understood as we wrestle with it on the page.

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women? 

To me, this is a declaration of the time’s we are in. Standing together in creativity unity is the most empowered place for many women, myself included. It means to me that I have graduated into a time space reality that is being carved out by the very people writing and experiencing love for and from a woman.

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on? 

To me they’re intermingled. You have to love a moment to be inspired enough to write about it. Erotic writing is being so in love with an intimate moment that you want to recreate it for others. The two are closely related as far as I am concerned.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry? 

I am smitten and often. As often as possible. And I love this word as the title for the anthology (kudos to you all) because that word encompasses how wistful it is allowing oneself to be overtaken by simply being fond of another. I’ve tried my entire life to bottle this feeling and give it to the world so yes! It is absolutely possible to summarize these feels in poetry, until we can market the sensation of course!

Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

I chose this poem because I was inspired by a woman who took my breath away. She was beautiful, inspiring, deliciously sad in all the right places and talking to her moved me. We never formally met but my hope in writing “WOMAN” was to zoom in on how explosive this connection was without any physical intimacy. I am not even sure if I felt romantic ideations towards this person up until this day – I just knew that I wanted her inner-flame to be safe. I wrote this poem to honor her fire; to protect it.

SMITTEN is available by ordering it in your Barnes & Noble, purchasing it online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or asking your independent bookstore to order it via Ingram. SMITTEN is available on Kindle and in print form.

For updates on SMITTEN visit the Facebook SMITTEN page.

This is a huge project of 120 female authors – an anthology that is testimony to the power of love and connection between women. Support SMITTEN by purchasing a copy for someone who supports LGBTQ equality, women or poetry.

 

 

SMITTEN

For the sake of SMITTEN, a project I believe in more than anything I have ever done before, I have asked close friends to take over my social media rather than close it down, so that SMITTEN can continue to flourish and succeed.

In my absence, due to my severe eye-sight-issues, my friends will be running the SMITTEN Facebook page and all SMITTEN related materials. Our goal is to ensure SMITTEN is successful in all ways. Sales are one way of legitimizing a project and ensuring its authors are HEARD.

Obviously LGBTQ projects are harder to sell than others, but it is my hope SMITTEN can continue its success through the rousing support of all those who believe in LGBTQ equality and the rights a woman has to love another woman. Please consider supporting SMITTEN – each sale helps raise visibility and gives SMITTEN authors another opportunity to share their unique and beautiful voices.

SMITTEN news and updates can be found here

SMITTEN is for sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you support local bookstores please ask them to stock SMITTEN using Ingram. If you cannot afford a Kindle copy or hard copy please ask your local library to get a copy of SMITTEN via Ingram. It doesn’t take much and it means everything to the 120 authors and poets of SMITTEN. Indie publishing doesn’t flourish without our support as a community!

Growing up I didn’t have a SMITTEN

black lesbianGrowing up in Europe I didn’t have anything like SMITTEN. My ‘sources’ were hard to find and often took me to oblique and obscure bookstores that had tiny ‘feminism/Lesbian’ (as they were once twinned) sections. Within those sections I found little I could personally relate to. I read Radcliffe Hall’s The Well Of Loneliness, now considered the ‘Bible’ of lesbianism and whether right or wrong, it did set a stage for me, and I loved the style and emotions therein, but over all her book is also very sad, it talks of lesbians as ‘inverts’ who are women trapped inside men’s bodies wishing to live the life men live and love women like men do. That was not my feeling. I was a woman happy to be a woman who wanted to love another woman who was most definitely a woman. (It should be noted many lesbians prefer to identify on the masculine end of the scale and yet identify as masculine women and this is a legit form of love too).

Even now, many years hence, there are divides within the LGBTQ and even lesbian/bi worlds. For some, you are just not considered a lesbian unless you subscribe to some of the dress-code/tough-act code and you are objectified for wanting to take on some of the accoutrement considered ‘heterosexual’ by queers. Likewise, you may be typecast as ‘femme’ (or butch) even in today’s society, as much as anything because since legislation has legalized gay marriage and made it easier in some countries for LGBTQ it has been assumed LGBTQ doesn’t need the same resources and so, there are less lesbian clubs/places to meet than ever before, and more is conducted online which as we all know, can be very hit and miss.

I personally knew of four lesbians who were date-raped when they met their ‘lesbian’ date in real life, after meeting online. In all cases, it was a set-up and there were men involved who took advantage of those women and punished them for being lesbians and not attracted to men. You may think that sounds extreme but having worked at two rape crisis centers I can assure you, it’s as common place now as it was in the seventies. The idea that LGBTQ and lesbians don’t need a ‘safe place’ to meet other like minded people, is too optimistic, it assumes it is now ‘safe’ to be a lesbian, but as any lesbian will tell you, we still fear holding a woman’s hand walking down certain streets. That hasn’t and won’t go away.

Let us not forget, in the vast majority of the world it is still illegal, frowned upon, punished or made impossible to be a lesbian and LGBTQ only pertains to a small percentage of this world in terms of population. If you are an African lesbian, good luck, you risk your life admitting that. So our Western ideas do not apply to the majority of lesbians out there.

Little really good literature is lesbian or LGBTQ, indicative of the stereotyping of LGBTQ literature when it is published and the small minority size of each group. You really have to hunt to find excellent, really well written lesbian literature or poetry. It was my dream to put together a group of authors who embodied love between women and showed the variety and depth of that love. SMITTEN accomplished this with over 120 poets and artists contributing some striking, stirring poems, drawings and thoughts of love and attachment.

SMITTEN was created for those people though I am certain we do not reach nearly enough. But it was my dream that even if we reached a few, even if we reached a girl like myself who went in search of ‘real’ lesbian love in a book store, they could find it. Maybe we haven’t done enough but with every act we hope to raise the consciousness of all people not just LGBTQ. People who may assume because gays have the right to vote and marry  and are represented on TV in some countries that they are absolutely free of persecution. This is not the case and while there are many other such minorities who are objectified, ridiculed, stereotyped and minimized, it was my mission to highlight lesbians and women who love women because I am one.

SMITTEN may not have existed when I was really young and had no gay friends, no cohorts who were LGBTQ and no school friends who were even sympathetic or understanding of LGBTQ. I myself didn’t really know enough. I sought refuge in gay bars when old enough but often times found those as judging and uncomfortable as being the only straight. The stereotypes, expectations, reductions and cliches of being a lesbian were as backward among lesbians as among heterosexuals! We had no role-models, nobody to refer to and only a palpable sense of shame emanating from society en mass. Nobody in their right mind wanted their daughter to grow up to be a lesbian, wasn’t that just something that happened like a birth defect or because a mother didn’t do her job right? That was the thinking back then and back then wasn’t ‘that’ long ago!

Consequently I spent more of my youth trying to get by without examining my lesbian identity and enjoying what it could be like to love another woman. I look at photos of very young lesbians now and I envy them their freedom but I am not so naive to assume they are entirely free, as a minute after the photo is taken, they could be beaten up by a mob who didn’t like what they saw. It still happens.

SMITTEN defies the hate, bigotry and misunderstanding of lesbianism. SMITTEN isn’t about women fucking other women for porn. SMITTEN isn’t about stereotypical lesbians created by heterosexual men. SMITTEN isn’t angry and hateful as some feminist backlash can be. SMITTEN is about this: Love IS LOVE.

Please support SMITTEN by gifting it to an LGBTQ person you care about, or buying it for yourself irrespective of your gender and sexual orientation, because love IS love and it transcends everything. If you like poetry, or you support LGBTQ inclusion and visibility then your support of SMITTEN can person by person, change everything. And if you cannot do that, perhaps think of requesting SMITTEN from your local library or purchasing the less expensive Kindle version (although it should be said the print version of SMITTEN is sumptuous!). YOUR support helps little girls growing up today, grow up to have a VERY different outlook in life, one without as much fear and isolation.

SMITTEN is available in print at

SMITTEN is available in KINDLE at

SMITTEN’s authors interviews, poetry readings and photo archive can be found here

With thanks to Indie Blu(e) for taking a chance and publishing this incredible project.