Writer and Poet Lilly Garwood-Lloyd “I wanted to make a point about how much we associate the vagina with politics or ‘angry’ feminism because in truth it has become a political battleground”

Writer and Poet Lilly Garwood-Lloyd “I wanted to make a point about how much we associate the vagina with politics or ‘angry’ feminism because in truth it has become a political battleground”.

 

Lilly Garwood-Lloyd / Lisa Lawrence
Lilly Garwood-Lloyd / Lisa Lawrence

 

 

Lisa Lawrence, 23, London, England.

Lisa also writes under the name Lilly Garwood-Lloyd and describes herself as a vegetarian, atheist and feminist. Having successfully studied Drama, Applied Theatre and Education and graduated  two years ago from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Lisa discovered feminism and this sparked her creativity to begin writing plays and what she calls “stand-up poetry”. With a background in all manner of creative expression including visual arts, graphic design and millinery Lisa is using her artistry to challenge feminist issues and engage with her audience.

What motivated you to deal with the subject of vaginas in your art?

As someone who has always been very unapologetic and outspoken on the topic of bodies and sex I suppose the ability to discuss the vagina came naturally to me, which it doesn’t for everyone. I felt a bit concerned that the only words many women feel comfortable using for their vagina are sexy or cutesy words, so I started trying to write poems about vaginas.

Tell us why you chose this submission?

 I think humour has the ability to deliver a message in a way which helps you reach people who might otherwise not be willing to listen. I wanted to diffuse a lot of the fear people have about feminism and to show that feminists have a sense of humour and aren’t all angry!

 

The poems I chose to submit are ones which feature something which makes lots of people uncomfortable; vaginas. It seems alien to me that so many people can barely say the word ‘vagina’ when they came out of one. I wanted to make a point about how much we associate the vagina with politics or ‘angry’ feminism…because in truth it has become a political battleground, from contraceptives, to abortion, to rape the vagina features in each and every one. I wanted to lighten the tone, so every day people could feel able to discuss vaginas, take ownership of their vagina and see it as part of who they are (rather than a dusty storage cupboard for entertaining guests or a hallway for babies).

 


 

 

Naming your ninny

by Lisa Lawrence

I find I often envy men

cos they get to have a willy

not in a weird Freudian sense

but cos the word is cute and silly

Men get to have a todger

They get to have a winkie

even words like cock and dick

at least make it sound kinky

 

me, I’ve got a vag

an axe-wound or a gash

I dare you to find a word for it

Which isn’t gross or brash

 

Men can have meat and two veg

Something edible at least

Like a salami or a sausage

upon which one could feast

I don’t want to have a beaver

I want something which sounds nice

Fuck having a ‘Lady Garden’

I want something to entice

Words like dong or prick

aren’t such a terrible thing

and even the term bell end

has got a certain ring

 

See men have got a pork sword

A sort of weapon you could say

Even plain old penis

is nice in it’s own way

 

Not me, I’ve got a vagina

A cunt or maybe twat

where the only nice variant

is another word for cat

 

Who wants to sip from a furry cup

or plow a phoof or slit?

what’s sexy about a slut-hole

or just calling it a ‘clit’

 

I want a revolution

You see enough is quite enough

It’s not a fucking ninny

and it’s not a fucking muff

 

It may seem insignificant

and I really hate to whinge

but I swear to God I’ll kill someone

If they tell me it’s a minge!


My Vagina isn’t political

By Lisa Lawrence

My vagina isn’t political

My vagina doesn’t care

about all those deep philosophical things

like what to do with pubic hair

 

Why must my vagina be radical?

Politics isn’t her thing

she’d much rather talk about French lace

than cotton torpedoes with string

 

My vagina wants a quiet life

not too quiet, if you know what I mean

but she doesn’t want to talk about women’s rights

She’d much rather flick the bean

 

See my vagina, she’s too often distracted

by all the good looking men-folk

to be thinking about labour or childbirth

she just wants a damn good stroke

 

My vagina, she’s satirical

She doesn’t intend to be blunt

She doesn’t see why ‘pussy’ can’t be playful

or why we’re so afraid of ‘cunt’

 

Perhaps my vagina is lazy

but the truth is it’s all too complex

and like most other vaginas

she only really cares about sex!


Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?

I’ve always been incredibly drawn to rhyming poetry, it’s easy to be drawn into the rhythm and I think it is one of the best written forms of comedy. Also because poems can be any length, about any topic I find them incredibly enjoyable as a written medium. Whilst I also write plays I find poems pack a punch when they have a message in a much more direct way.

What is your process when creating?

The beauty of writing is you can do it anywhere, so a lot of my work is written into the notes on my iphone whilst undertaking journeys to and from work. Sometimes I also go low-tech with a good old fashioned paper and pen! In terms of contemplating a theme for a poem I’ll often start with a topic my friends and I have discussed, or something that frustrates me – my poem ‘Naming your ninny’ is really all based on my hatred of the word ‘minge’.

Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?

As a poet I’m incredibly inspired by Dr Seuss. His writing sucks me in every time, even now! As a playwright I’m influenced by the work of Harold Pinter and Sarah Kane. As an individual I’m inspired by my late Grandmother Sheila Cullen, who to me was the very definition of success, and the person I always aspired to be.

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

I think the word feminist is hugely misunderstood. To me feminism today is about equality for both genders, that does mean equal pay for women but it also means equal rights to paternity leave for fathers. For me feminism is about no one being prejudged based on their genitalia, a persons gender is far more complex than what is between their legs. I also think trans* issues like provisions of unisex bathrooms should be really high on our list of priorities as feminists. In many ways I don’t feel the word feminist is the best word to use to cover what I feel feminism is…but since gender equalist doesn’t have the same ring then I am very proud to call myself a feminist.

What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?

Having trained in Applied Theatre I’ve always been passionate about the role the arts plays in positive social change. I feel that all artists and creatives should be behind the ASLI philosophy. We all have a duty and a responsibility to use the incredible tools and skills we have for the betterment of others.

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

As a woman I have been shocked to realise how much my body apparently belongs to the public domain. People are happy to comment on what I need to do to make it look better and having moved to London I couldn’t believe how many strangers felt completely comfortable making sexualised comments about my body on the street. I do worry that women therefore feel a greater pressure for their bodies to meet certain standards than they do for their minds.

Do you think that women and men are equal in todays societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?

I am very privileged to have been born at a time and in a place where women enjoy more rights and freedoms freedoms than at any other time in history. However we are still so far from real equality for both sexes. A world where a woman can earn less than a man for the same job is not an equal world.

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc..?

The more I learn about the world the more causes I find I am drawn to. I am passionate about feminism, gay rights/equal marriage, animal rights and anything which helps people steer away from consumerism.

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway savedyour life in any way?

Through those turbulent teenage years where I’m sure everyone everyone questions their existence and feels worthless the arts were the place where I found a community of like-minded people. It was in my drama classes that I first felt what it was like to belong and in my graphic design classes where I first learned to be comfortable with my own presence in silence.

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

I think art has an incredibly transformative power. If my work makes one person more comfortable talking about their genitalia, or changes the way they perceive feminism then I’m honestly delighted.

What are your goals as with your art?

My goal is to create poems that are provocative, entertaining and then make you think when you least expect it.

What is your next project or piece that you are working on?

My next big goal with my feminist work is to promote an international community art project called the satirical vaginas which encourages participants from all walks of life to submit satirical doodles of vaginas as a way of encouraging discussion about the many different forms vaginas take. You can follow the project on twitter @SatiricalVagina

I’m also working on creating some performance films of my stand-up poetry and on a new play named ‘Made Glorious Summer

 

If you would like to know more about Lilly Garwood-Lloyd  follow these links:

Website 

Twitter

 

 

Composer Sophie Paulette Jupillat “I felt strong and happy when I made art, art truly saved my life and was my only hope”.

Composer Sophie Paulette Jupillat “I felt strong and happy when I made art, art truly saved my life and was my only hope”.

 

Sophie Paulette Jupillat
Sophie Paulette Jupillat

 

Sophie Paulette Jupillat, 21, Orlando, FL, U.S. Also known as Phoenix or PhoenixMusique. A French Venezuelan: born in Venezuela but adopted by French parents who moved to the US when Sophie was two. Sophie creates music which speaks to the core of you, it evokes memories and emotions which are hidden deep within oneself. We at ASLI fell in love with Sophie’s music and knew that this artist needed to be heard.

Growing up I was surrounded with books, art and music of all genres, which led to my unquenchable passion for writing and music.

What motivated you to deal with the subject of female stereotypes in your art?

As I was privileged in certain respects when growing up, particularly in the area of education, my childhood and teenage years were horrible and rife with emotional abuse. This opened my eyes at an early age to both the unfairness and the beauty of life. My appreciation for all things beautiful about the human race and the pursuit to make it better through art is a direct product of my environment.

I composed Simmering Soul as a response piece to a man’s comment about women’s emotions and ability to compose. He stated that women are too emotional to be able to compose great pieces on the level that Mozart or Liszt could. In addition, this piece was also a subtle lash out to my family, who thought I was ‘abnormally quiet’ for a girl. Stereotypes like these need to be brought down, and women need to find a place in the arts where they can be respected as much as their men counterparts. A woman should be as quiet as she wants, be able to create art how and when she wants, whether in the face of adversity, or in the embracing arms of nature. Womankind is a simmering spirit!

Simmering Soul begins with strings and piano quietly, mirroring how subdued I felt in my household. As the piece progresses, the strings and piano get louder, gaining a crescendo as the clarinet joins the fray. In the middle of the piece comes the peaceful vivid resolution: a swell of strings and clarinet with the piano in the background. Near the end of the piece a jazzy flair comes into play, and the accordion and horns make their appearance. It becomes a celebration of life, an emancipation of spirit: like I achieved through the completion of this piece, and the pursuit of my art; like the ardent journey women have made, and still have to make to achieve complete freedom.

 

 

Tell us why you chose this submission?

I saw this submission opportunity on Facebook and immediately decided to apply. Many contests for Women’s History Month pop up every year, but the earnestness with which Art Saves Lives promoted the submission invitation and its goal called to me on a personal level. I knew I had something special I could give.

Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?

There is no specific reason; whether I’m writing or composing music, whatever the heart of the art is, I choose what is best for it. For Simmering Soul and most of my music compositions, I tend to favour orchestral instruments; they give a polyphonic deep voice that I feel best conveys the emotion of the piece.

What is your process when creating?

It is very disorganized most of the time; often times, my music and writing pursue me! Sometimes, a tune floats into my head one day fully formed, with orchestral instruments and all, and I later go to my keyboard and transcribe what I can. Other times, I just mess around on the keyboard and find a melody that I like, then spend months polishing it up. For my writing, usually an idea springs into my head, or a dialogue between characters, or a line of description, and I write an outline of what I think the story or poem will be. It can take from one day to months and months to finish, depending on the work.

 

 

Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?

I am influenced musically by big bands (like Benny Goodman and Gershwin) and the great composers (like Mancini and John Williams). I am also influenced by classical music and soft rock from the 70’s. I was classically trained as a pianist and have combined that with my love of jazz to create myself a genre. For my writing, I am influenced by classical French literature (like Hugo, Gautier, or Balzac), English literature, Gothic literature of all kinds, science fiction and mystery. Whether in music or art, and whatever the genre, I love writing about anything of the human condition, the reason for living, the beauty of nature..

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

To me, feminism means equal rights for men and women in all aspects of social, political, cultural, scientific, and economic life. The fact that in the 21st century, women are still lesser than men, if not in the work place (such as having a lesser salary), then socially (such as in all the stereotypes degrading women—the list is endless), is an outrage. I am a feminist, yes, in the sense that I feel we women shouldn’t be treated as property, and are just as capable as men of doing things. However, I am not of the ‘Nazi feminist’ trend that is sadly emerging in our society today due to misunderstandings and unwillingness to face facts on the part of both men and women.

What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?

One hears a lot about various organizations trying to raise awareness during Women’s History Month. Usually, though, these types of organizations look for something very specific, often shunning the many varied issues that Women’s History Month raises by its nature. Some are limited to one form of art. ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL drew my attention because its mission is universal, both to contributors and to the public.  It welcomed all types of art that women can do, instead of selecting just one. The content ASLI called for was about issues that are deeply resonant in our world today: education, violence, stereotypes, equal rights, all very real and very insidious problems that need to be addressed.

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

Sadly, yes, I do feel we have to project an image in order to be taken seriously, specifically at work and at school. Sometimes, I feel we are discouraged from taking certain paths because ‘men will always do it better.’ For example, for a time, I was a computer science major, and the number of silently or overtly derisive attitudes this evinced was astonishing. The mentality is: women cannot do science. I had a similar experience with music. I’ve been composing since I was 13. I made a male close family friend listen to a few of my compositions one day, and he said they were nice, but it was obvious a woman wrote them. He said it was obvious because women’s inherent approach to music is “daintier and lighter than a man’s. There aren’t female equivalents of Rachmaninoffs, powerful composers,” he said. It made my blood boil.

During interviews, on the other hand, I’ve felt that I’ve had to play up my femininity in order to be taken seriously. The demands placed on women to be a certain way is much more intense than for men. Just taking a look at ads today, the woman has to be curvy but skinny, sexy, all done up, and smart, but not too much because after all, she is to be desired by men, but not be competition. She has to cook, be a mother and be the ‘ideal wife.’ Even women reinforce stereotypes among themselves! My own mother told me to be independent, and yet she insisted I be a good cook, a housekeeper, and always dressed up to the nines no matter where I was.

Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?

Definitely not, as you can see from what I’ve stated above, and in Third World countries the situation is even worse.

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?

I am passionate about equality, for everybody. I am passionate about equal income, about women’s rights, about the education and care of children, particularly adopted ones. I have volunteered at children’s summer camps, art camps, and would do it again. I also would volunteer for anything concerning the arts and/or languages.

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?

ART SAVES LIVES means exactly what it says. Art has the potential to touch the human psyche in a deep and life-influencing way; it can inspire one to do so much. Art definitely saved my life during my teenage years of emotional abuse. When my own adoptive parents were telling me I would be a failure, and that my art was nothing special, that I could never do anything with it, plunging ahead and creating was my coping method. Being able to write creatively and play music was my own secret garden in my family world of chaos and destruction. If I felt worthless back then, at least I felt like my own person. I felt strong and happy when I made art. Art truly saved my life and was my only hope.

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

My music and writing can be used to inspire awareness of the beauty of the world around us, to appeal to the better human in all of us. I like to think that as I always put so much of myself in all my work, people around the world who can experience my art will find themselves mentally communicating and communing with my art. I also think that by the very act of creating art, I can inspire fellow women to do the same, regardless of their background: Whether one was born in luxury, or whether one was born in a Venezuelan barrio (as is my case), one can achieve great heights.

 

 

What are your goals as with your art?

My goal is to keep perfecting my art and touching people’s lives. It is my hope one day to be a published novelist and poet, as well as a film composer.

What is your next project or piece that you are working on?

I have so many I can’t list them all. But a couple of my ongoing musical projects are varying instrumental jazz pieces, a techno piece, and a Russian waltz (part of my three part Waltz of the Romanov’s series). Writing-wise, I am working on a play, several science fiction stories, a Gothic novella, a short story, and poetry.

And is there anything you would like to add to your interview?

No, just that I am very honoured to be a part of this project and would love to contribute more in the future!

If you would like to know more about Sophie Paulette Jupillat follow these links:

SoundCloud

Facebook

Linked In

 

The band Brittle Sun discuss violence against women in their song Last One Standing and use their music to challenge the status quo: ASLI speak to lead vocalist Viki Mealings

The band Brittle Sun discuss violence against women in their song Last One Standing and use their music to challenge the status quo: ASLI speak to lead vocalist Viki Mealings.

Viki Mealings lead vocalist from Brittle Sun
Viki Mealings lead vocalist from Brittle Sun

 

Vicki Mealings is the lead vocalist from the trio band Brittle Sun who are Melbourne based. With a vivid personality as a band and enigmatic live performances Brittle Sun are more than musicians they are artists who use inspiration from spoken word and collaborate with local poets.

The song ‘Last One Standing’ was co-written with my friend Megan, who’s a writer and editor. We’re a small but diverse bunch in terms of age and background. I’ve always loved music. The first song I loved was ‘Alexander Beetle’ by Melanie. I started out drawing and making little storybooks when I was tiny. It didn’t occur to me to play music until much later. I grew up in Melbourne, which is a great place to be if you like poetry and music.

What motivated you to deal with the subject of Violence Against Women in your art? Tell us why you chose this submission?

The song is very loosely autobiographical, but also inspired by the experiences of women we knew. The song was written a while ago, and it will mean different things to different people. We saw the call out, and we thought the song might be what Art Saves Lives were looking for in terms of the subject matter.


 

Submission Song: Last One Standing 

Lyrics by Megan Green and Viki Mealings. Music by Brittle Sun.

Our song ‘Last One Standing’ is very loosely autobiographical, but also inspired by the experiences of women we knew. The lyrics took a long time to get right, as there are a lot of stories in there and we wanted something a bit universal. The final edit of the lyrics is a long way from what we started with, but we kept the basic hook that makes the chorus.

We wanted to keep the music really simple so as to keep the main focus on the words and the voice. So we just laid down three tracks-acoustic guitar, keys, and astbory bass. That’s all.

David Jetson played the bass on the track and Stewart Garrett played keys. The song was recorded and produced by Kim Lajoie at Obsessive Music in Melbourne, Australia.



Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?

I used to do visual art, but I couldn’t really say what I wanted through it. So I started writing poems and songs. Writing is the most satisfying part of the process. Performing is also a necessary part of the process, but writing is what gives the joy.  

What is your process when creating?

Sometimes ideas will materialise out of nowhere-just snippets. The process is all about having the discipline to write them down and then build on them. It takes work.

 

 

Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?

There are so many influences-family, friends, enemies, other artists, and well-known artists. Of the well-known artists, Lou Reed was a pretty big influence as is Patti Smith.

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

It’s going to mean different things to different people. Enabling equal opportunity is the tenet everyone’s familiar with, but for me it goes further than that. It’s about recognising and addressing the injustices of the past and present and taking responsibility for the future.

What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?

ASLI is inclusive. It provides a voice to the voiceless.

 

 

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

In general, I think women are taken less seriously, whether they conform or not.

Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s  societies  around the world? Have you any experience of this?

No. The average woman in global terms works as an unpaid farmhand and does most of the work. We’re a lot better off here in the West but there are still issues for example difficulties with balancing home and family life and unrealistic societal expectations in terms of work, parenting and physical appearance.

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?

It concerns me that children from low income families don’t have the same educational opportunities as those from higher income families. I’m also concerned about Indigenous health, in terms of the scandalously high infant mortality rates, higher rates of poverty, and a greatly reduced life expectancy.

 

 

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and  has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?

I once witnessed a music therapist working with a young person who had a suffered a traumatic brain injury. That person was agitated, confused, and restless most of the time. Except when the music therapist was singing and playing guitar. The music definitely had a calming effect. Every time the music played, it was as though the former, uninjured personality resurfaced; something that was thought to be irretrievably lost. It was quite a thing to witness.

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

Art can create change in a number of ways. It can help people to think in different ways about a given situation and it can challenge the status quo. Sometimes it’s a conscious thing, sometimes it isn’t. We want people to enjoy what we do and to feel proud of who they are. I think it’s really important to celebrate diversity and to promote solidarity.

What are your goals as with your art?

To keep on improving and to leave behind a body of work we can be proud of.

What is your next project or piece that you are working on?

We’re currently recording some new songs for our next EP. I also want to get my poems into print.

 

Viki Mealings - Brittle Sun
Viki Mealings – Brittle Sun

 

If you would like to know more about Brittle Sun follow these links:

Website

Facebook Page

YouTube 

 

 

Poet Laura Taylor “If I can use my own hard times to make art, and share that widely, then that multiplies the cohesion, makes us all stronger”

Poet Laura Taylor “If I can use my own hard times to make art, and share that widely, then that multiplies the cohesion, makes us all stronger”.

 

Laura Taylor
Laura Taylor

 

Laura Taylor, 47, St Helens, Merseyside, UK.

Laura is from a village called Rainhill, which is located in between St Helens and Liverpool. Having been born into a working-class family Laura has retained the values of that upbringing. Material gain is not a high priority – happiness, harmony, love and equality are.  Laura identifies herself as a Socialist, a feminist, and says she has challenged arbitrary forms of authority all her life.  

I do not believe in hierarchies. I have no ‘art background’ as such, I’ve never studied creative writing.  I just started writing poetry in 2010 for the first time.

What motivated you to deal with the subject of writing for revolution/unsolicited advice in your art?

Write for Revolution’ was about seeing a female poet perform, and being so emotionally overwhelmed by her words that I went away from that experience thinking that I had things to say, too.

The poem starts with dancing alone, and ends with ‘and now there’s more of us’, writing our lives for whoever is reading/listening, and connecting with them.  When I get up on a stage to share my experiences in the form of poetry, I know from experience that there will be other women who will identify with it, and they will feel less isolated as a result.   

‘Unsolicited’ is based on all the unwanted and unasked-for ‘advice’ that I’ve received over the years on what it is to be a woman – or rather, a ‘lady’.  It basically amounts to a list of things you can and cannot do – mainly the latter. Everything in that poem is based on true events in my life.  I have spent long periods as a single parent, and know what it is to be demonised by the media and the government.

I am acutely aware that as women age, opportunities close down. In my life, there are jobs I’ve not been allowed to do, behaviour that I have been strongly discouraged from; I’ve felt the weight of societal disapproval for just being me and it’s suffocating.

Tell us why you chose this submission?

I have performed both poems many times, and without fail, I have had women laughing, nodding their heads in recognition, and thanking me for articulating their own experiences.  If I can use my own hard times to make art, and share that widely, then that multiplies the cohesion, makes us all stronger.


 

Write for Revolution  

We danced alone on wooden floors.

Volunteers making noise.

In later days, I heard that you had

swallowed lumps for breakfast.

 

I sat in darkness, closing throat.

Felt my own lumps swimming up.

Listening and wondering

of spun-out olive branches.

 

I went away and thought about

all the sorrow, all the fear,

all the tears we’d shed so far

and wondered,

could I help?

 

Could I stand up to make a change?

To help one woman in the world

feel less alone, less isolated.

Could I?

Well…

 

I tried.

I wrote.

I told about

 

little girls

and bruises,

loneliness and solitude,

rapture and revulsion,

teenage isolation.

Violence, injustice;

politricks, hypocrisy.

Endless fights

for equal rights;

kissing girls and

loving christ.

 

And now there’s more of us.

Northern girls with tales to tell.

We reap and sow the seeds of change

and write our lives for you.

 

We write

for revolution.


Unsolicited (1968 – 2015)

 

You’re Not Allowed

 

to cry,

in here,

this room, this bar,

a pint, on deck,

to fight or sulk,

or answer back,

to join the local snooker team,

to bare your legs

or armpit hair,

express yourself

or sleep around,

to shout or swear,

to wear short skirts,

to wear short hair

 

Grow it, tie it, perm it, dye it, never cut it short

 

to be the boss,

come more than once,

to suit yourself,

to wank, to sweat,

to smell, or fart,

to bleed,

release a stream of pee

outside of

chambered secrecy,

be clever, proud,

sarcastic, loud,

tell dirty jokes or pick your nose

 

That’s not very ladylike

 

to flirt, to age,

to speak your mind,

to even show your knicker line,

bring up a child

all on your own,

expose your breasts,

express your milk

so publicly,

to smoke, get drunk,

get up the duff

without a band of gold.

 

Single mothers are to blame for all the world’s depravity

 

UNSOLICITED!

 


Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?

Purely by accident. As mentioned, it was the experience of another woman’s poetry that spurred me to write my own.  I’d never really read any before, and thought I didn’t like it. Thought it was elitist, and ‘not for the likes of me’. It’s hugely addictive though! And I’ve discovered that it’s the perfect art form for me.

What is your process when creating?

I’ll start with a word, a phrase, a memory or a feeling that sparks in my mind. Sometimes that can be just out of the blue, sometimes I’ll deliberately set out to write about something that I feel strongly about, or wish to express.  I will then just sit and type out as many associations with that as possible.  Just let it flow, don’t even think about shaping it. It’s important to squeeze every last drop of what you think, how you think, how you feel, and how you can possibly express that.

Sometimes I’ll do a little research about ideas or words in the poem, which can then sometimes completely change the course of it!  Then I read through the notes and associations, mull it all over, leave for a few days.  Then and only then do I start to structure the poem.  The title is almost always the last thing to be written.  

I will work on the poem a little bit each day, working towards that sweet moment when it just ‘feels right’. When I get a feeling inside that this is the most perfect way to express how I feel.

I can spend ridiculous amounts of time worrying about punctuation too! Because it matters. Every single thing in there – each word, line break, spelling, grammar, punctuation, flow – everything counts in a poem. It’s a condensed piece of writing, a means of communication, so it all matters.  I will spend a lot of time editing, and be quite severe with myself. Then I show my poems to my partner, who is a wonderfully supportive constructive critic and will, without fail, pick up on any tiny thing that I think may need changing.

This is the usual process. Every now and again though, a rare delight will happen and a poem will plop onto the page almost perfectly formed!

Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?

I can honestly say that I have not been influenced by any poet or poem, as such. I don’t write like anyone else or attempt to emulate styles. I didn’t read poetry, didn’t think I would like it, thought it was not for me. As for inspiration – that initial time seeing the female poet perform. That’s what kicked all this off.

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

Feminism is really quite simple – it is just about being fair, and everyone being treated equally, regardless of sex or gender. There are lots of strands of feminism, with differing ideas about the roots of female oppression and various resolutions to that, but ultimately it’s about fairness and equality. Yes indeed, I do consider myself a feminist. I am not a separatist, I simply want to be treated as an equal. Whilst I recognise that men too are manipulated and shaped by our culture, still to this day women are not treated equally, and so I will continue calling myself a feminist until we are.  It would be lovely not to have to, not to have the same arguments, the same struggles, over and over and over again, but the plain truth is that we do.

What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?

I was intrigued by the theme of your call-out for art in celebration of women, and identify strongly with the emphasis on giving voice to the silenced.

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

I don’t think women can win either way to be honest! You can conform, you may gain approval, but will that mean you are taken seriously? No, not in my experience.  It just allows for more opportunities for continued oppression. Conform and you will be treated as the type of person society thinks you should be, ie, passive, submissive, and second-class; more concerned with minutiae than the state of the world. Rebel and you’ll be a ‘troublemaker’, or worse. All you can ever do is keep yourself strong inside and out, and stay true to yourself and your beliefs. Educate yourself, keep your own counsel, and connect with others. Strive for equality.

Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?

No. 

Yes, I realised very early on that men and women were absolutely not treated equally. I was constantly reminded that my behaviour and clothing were ‘unladylike’, that there were a whole raft of petty rules that only applied to me and not the boys around me.  

When I was growing up, I was told in no uncertain terms that I should not try to get the job I wanted, as a long-distance lorry driver, because I would be ostracised and given a hard time by the male truckers. I wanted to join the Royal Navy to travel the world like my Dad had done, but was told that women were not allowed on board ships – I could have a ‘nice office job’ in Germany if I wanted to travel. Constantly asked who I was going to marry when I grew up – not ‘was I interested in the idea of marriage’, just presented with that assumption, aged 5!  I was not allowed to join the local pool team because I was female, despite being as good as the other players. I was refused drinks served in a pint glass and given two half glasses instead. I have been asked if I was pregnant in job interviews and whether I planned to get married.  

I have been physically intimidated in working situations, disregarded in others in favour of a male colleague, and inappropriate and offensive suggestions made to me by male colleagues and bosses. I have been inappropriately touched on countless occasions – this is still considered ‘normal’ behaviour by many in our society.  

I have been told how to dress, what to wear, how to wear my hair, what to put on my face, how to sit, walk, speak, and what to say/not to say.  I am often referred to as ‘feisty’ – a term only applied to women with strong beliefs, never men.

There are lots of (derogatory) words for women that have no male equivalent.  I see double standards and inequality etched into the very core of our society.

I continue to experience casual sexism on a depressingly regular basis, with the odd high-impact encounter.  And that’s the tip of the iceberg, in the Western world only.  I am painfully aware that for women in other parts of the world, life is so very much more unequal, difficult,  oppressive, and in many cases physically dangerous and life-threatening.  

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?

Domestic violence, Socialism, political apathy, social inequality.  I have recently joined the Green Party, as their policies are people-centred, striving for equality.  I’m committed to standing as a candidate for them in the upcoming local elections.

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?

It means connecting – people, thoughts, ideas. It means strength in unity. Art can do this and you don’t even have to be in the same room, never mind the same country. Once it is documented in some way it can then be shared.  As a deeply unhappy teenager, I found solace in the words and music of Janis Joplin. It felt like she was singing directly to me, for me, and expressing how I felt. In the pits of depression, I felt that I was not alone. And that’s a really common experience, in all art forms. That moment when the light-bulb flashes and we think “Oh! It’s not just me!”.  Humans are sociable beings – even when we’re introverted, we still thrive on a certain amount of contact, of identification with others. Art is a way of doing that.  

Music is invaluable in the care of people diagnosed with dementia. Research shows that the experience of listening to music stimulates all areas of the brain simultaneously. People who no longer communicate will smile, stand up, waltz around the room, loving the music, remembering words and melodies. It’s quite astonishing the impact this art form has on people’s lives.  

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

I perform my poems regularly, at various venues and locations, and I’ve been widely published – see my earlier comment about documenting art, so that it can be accessed by all. I write about a number of issues, and know from the reception of my performances that my words have touched people, made them think, feel, cry, laugh, get angry.  They have CONNECTED with them. I also know that I have inspired other people to start writing, or start writing AGAIN after a long break, raising their own issues, and sharing them with others to identify with.  Art creates unity, solidarity.  One of my poems about the effects of Thatcherism on our household was published in a magazine, the proceeds of which go to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, which is working to get justice for miners who were the victims of police brutality, lies, and cover ups at Orgreave in 1984.  

Do I want art (mine or others’) to create change? Yes, absolutely I do.  It’s one of the best forms of awareness-raising that I know of – it creates change via this process. I believe the arts to be as essential to our understanding of the world as the history books, politics, and the media. Let BOTH sides speak, not just the side with power.

What are your goals as with your art?

To keep writing, keep performing, keep reaching out. To keep enjoying what I do, and to give pleasure and comfort to others. Simple as that.  It would be nice to scratch a living from it, but extremely unlikely!

What is your next project or piece that you are working on?

I’m in touch with a publisher who is interested in publishing a collection of my poems next year, which is very exciting. I’m also working on publishing a book of ekphrastic poems with some friends.  One of them is a talented photographer, and 3 of us poets have been so inspired by his images we have been writing poems based on them. We’re hoping to bring out a quality ‘coffee table’ book of the poems and images, as well as an exhibition of them. We’re all from working-class communities – poetry wasn’t ‘for the likes of us’.  Except that it is, and more people like us need to know that.  

And is there anything you would like to add to your interview?

I believe that engaging with the creative outlet/s of your choice brings a wealth of benefits – mental stimulation and stability, pure joy in the incomparable experience of the creative process, the connection to other human beings.   

Art doesn’t ‘just’ save the lives of others, it can save your own too. The often-cathartic processes involved make it your very own personal therapy, and one which I wish everyone would try at least once.  

Bang a drum, pluck a string, sing a song, have a dance, write a verse, paint a picture, and enjoy.  And when you find something you love doing, that stokes your soul and makes you smile, just keep doing it.

 

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