In the world of spoken-word poetry, women are telling stories of the sisterhood, bravely challenging cultural norms and looking to evoke debate and encourage critical thinking over global issues. Here’s a brief introduction to just five of these incredible artists.
This society sees women as bodies that are commodities, but only at their peak of conceivability.
Sabrina Malfouz is an award winning poet and playwright of British Egyptian nationality whose poetics are inextricably linked with her politics. When Malfouz speaks about a cause she believes in, she does it with such wit and eloquence that by the time you’ve finished listening, you’ve already signed up to the accompanying petition.
In First Poem, her experiences working in a strip club are brought to life by a brilliant amalgamation of usually neglected voices. A master of character, she embodies the voices of women in a way that transcends class boundaries and gives them agency and power.
For Malfouz, poetry and storytelling are a direct form of political action. She also supports and collaborates with other poets through her project P.O.P (Poetry on Production).
Spoken word serves as social commentary.
Hala Ali is a Saudi Arabian born spoken word artist previously based in the UAE and now resident in London. Her work often involves an element of protest as she explores issues faced by women in the Arab world. Through her direct, confrontational style, Ali responds to issues of female invisibility, male privilege, militancy and social dogmas. Ali speaks out for women who have for so long been silenced by systems of patriarchy.
A poem read at The Poeticians Event in Dubai attempts to reclaim the female body: “My loins should only be synonymous with birth and pleasure and not the measure of all that is pride / Prejudice seeping through the desert language like sands of time now baby be mine.”
Salena Godden is a London based poet and performer of Jamaican, Irish and English roots – she calls herself “Jamish”. Godden blurs the boundaries between poetry, spoken word and standup comedy.
In an interview for The Skinny she speaks of poetry as a way of “narrating the language of the people”. Godden tackles issues of class, race, and gender with energy, humour and honesty. Her recent poem NO MEANS YES: Pickup Advice for Women is a form of rant poetry which responds to the misogynistic attitudes held by Julien Blanc. Her readings are best described as creating “infectious anarchy”.
Godden’s work exposes the absurdity of a culture where sexist, ageist and racist attitudes still prevail.
In this country of billboards, covered in tits.
Hollie McNish is an English poet who recently won the Arts Foundation prize and the 2009 UK poetry slam finals. She recites her poems with a simple honesty whilst confronting gender stereotypes, lifting the lid on traditionally off-limits subjects such as pregnancy and breast feeding in public.
Her poem Embarrassed confronts the taboos of breastfeeding in “this country of billboards, covered in tits” with “female breasts–banned–unless they’re out just for show.”
Hollie has also experimented with form using her poetry as a means of deconstructing the sexism so prolific in music videos. It’s worth checking out her astute, and rather hilarious, commentary of Flo-Rida’s ‘Blow my Whistle‘.
In a culture full of so much destruction, creativity is in itself activism.
Andrea Gibson is an American poet and activist and was the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam. In Gibson’s work, spoken word and activism are interwoven through an ever-expanding imagery which explodes the narrow perimeters of gender and sexuality. Gibson also tackles issues of war, class, white privilege, and mental illness.
In her poem Blue Blanket, which culminates in the lines ‘tonight she’s not asking you what you’re going to tell your daughter, she’s asking what you’re going to teach your sons’, Gibson suggests that the process of ending a culture of violence and misogyny has to be a collaborative one between all genders, sexual orientations and races.
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