Book Review: Womanhood by Samantha Sinyakena
“But I hate to be cast away
Like a receipt
I won’t allow it
No I won’t allow it…”
–I Am Woman, Samantha Sinyakena, Womanhood
From the first poem in Samantha Sinyakena’s Womanhood the reader is met with a no holds barred look into the author’s experience of life as a woman. This book is certainly not for the faint of heart.
From the beginning of the book we are warned that the author “uses the full spectrum of our colourful lexicon”. Sinyakena is courageous in her descriptions in a way that made me flinch from time to time. Her first poem, I Am Woman, clearly marks the power of her words when she declares what she will and won’t allow in terms of her treatment by the patriarchy.
I find the use of the word ‘receipt’ particularly interesting, in that it also assumes that a woman is somehow an object to be purchased. A common phrase from my younger days was to hear that when women were dating or married they were described as ‘off the market’. This never sat well with me, but for a long time I didn’t have the language to describe why. The poet nails it here. If women are objects to be purchased, they can just as easily be discarded, as if their choices and feelings don’t matter. Sinyakena won’t allow it, and neither will I.
“Now this adult girl still hopes
From an iron heart
And lonely days”
–Ignorance Of A Soul, Samantha Sinyakena, Womanhood
There are so many small passages within Sinyakena’s poetry that make me sit up and listen. The phrase ‘adult girl’ points to the dichotomy of women struggling against time. Often women are referred to as girls in a way that encourages a diminishing of maturity and power within relationships. I rarely hear men referred to as boys in the same way. I know from my own experience how empowering it can be to start to grow into my fully adult self, only to feel the pang of disappointment when grown men refer to me (or to a group of women) in a professional setting as ‘girls’. This poem brought those feelings back to me immediately.
“I know she’ll be unwilling
She’s not a happy sport
She’ll break out in that thrush again
Cause she’s the diva sort”
–Have You Seen My Vagina?, Samantha Sinyakena, Womanhood
Aside from the serious messages in this book, there were many poems that made me snort or chuckle. This was one of them. Our womanly bodies are mystical, magical and completely unpredictable at times. Sometimes it feels as if the slightest change in the breeze can cause my body to respond in ways that are inconvenient. Still, I am always in awe of her.
This poem goes on to talk about how we’ve got to have a chat and get along with our bodies somehow because amazing things like having a baby may be required. Being in tune with my body has always been a difficult endeavour. It’s often like a dance that changes once I think I’ve learned the steps. Sinyakena approaches this with the mirth necessary to get through daily challenges as a woman. Sometimes her descriptions were shocking, but they were always genuine and relatable.
Samantha Sinyakena’s Womanhood is a wild ride. Full of rhyme and the tumult of what it means for her to be a woman, reading it is a journey that points out the commonalities of womanhood. My experience is vastly different from Sinyakena’s, but so many pieces of it ring true. I applaud her bravery in being completely honest, even when it must be uncomfortable to expose pieces of the self to a judgmental society.
Sinyakena is a performance poet,. Her first book, Memoirs of a Dater, was adapted into a stage production and performed as part of fringe theater to sell-out shows. Though I loved reading her work, I had a feeling I was missing a bit of the brassy boldness that I might get from seeing her live. It’s a goal of mine to find one of her performances now and put that to the test.
Womanhood is dedicated to the sisterhood of women that continue to fight against injustice. While we all have different experiences, it’s important to recognize the common thread that runs through so many of our lives. Sinyakena gives us much to think about at the junction of gender definition, traditional roles and the fight against the patriarchy.
Womanhood is currently available through her website at Unnormal House Project.
About the Author
Samantha Sinyakena was first published in her local newspaper at 7 years of age. Although she is dyslexic, she has gone on to prove you can do what you love, even if it is a challenge sometimes. She adores poetry, especially spoken word poetry, and is a regular at many open mic nights from her hometown of Leicester to London and beyond. To find out more about Samantha and her various books, stage productions and visual art projects you can visit her via her website Unnormal House Project.