#Woman: Remapping the Territory In 50 Poems of Glorious Liquid Truth

woman remapping the territory

Woman, they whisper. The world’s shadows just love to whisper in your ear from the sanctity of dark places, don’t they? They’re so bloody awful, those shadows. They cup their hands to whisper in your ear from birth till death.

What are you, you woman-thing? You oddly-made creature?

What is your purpose?

How dare you think, and speak, and try to silence our voices when we shadowsplain and tell you how the world REALLY works?

You cursed thing. You broken piece. How very DARE you?

Visionary editors Rita Osei and Michelle Olley have done wonders to compile an anthology of women’s poetry that matches our modern sensibilities and speaks to us of the times in which we live. In an interview with Wall Street International, they explain how the anthology’s title is a reference to Alfred Korzybski’s well-known saying that “the map is not the territory”. That is, what we’re told to believe often doesn’t reflect our lived experience.

The #Woman anthology is organised around three themes: birth, growth and adolescence. Birth by no means defines a woman – either giving birth or experiencing it. But the very first poem in the anthology, “The Whale in the Cherry Blossom” by Salena Godden, sets the tone and assures us that birth is a vast concept, as broad and deep and fluid and influential as water. Or, for that matter, the internet:

We start work at 4am
down dark dream mines,
around the back of the internet,
blossom snowing,
pink slush in the gutter,
the dawn sky, the grey-colour
of a whale’s smile in a deep sea duvet.

The sixteen international poets who have contributed to the #Woman anthology are marvels. It couldn’t have been easy to choose only sixteen, when so many poets deserve a seat at the table, but those chosen are a revelation.

Clockwise from top left: Cerris Morgan-Moyer, Spirit de la Mare, Leah Moore, Salena Godden, Stav B, Nana Ghana

The poets featured are wise. They are alchemists. They grind the past, present and future into powder and distill it in stanzas to concoct new, better, truer realities. These poets are performers with a lust for life. They’re survivors and pioneers. Leaders, wits and activists are counted among their number. They include comics writer Leah Moore, Ivor Novellow Award nominee Hélène Muddiman, artist and LGBT activist Stav B, and DJ and WITCHiH founder Bishi – to name a few, with the full list provided below. These women poets are only themselves, no-one else.

The poems centre on our existence, as all good poetry does – and, this being an anthology by and about women, they cast a light on the shadows that surround us. As Moksha says in “A Thought”:

Did you foresee me as completion?
Was my part already written?
Was there an arc you both agreed on?
No movement left for me to breathe in?
Did you forget I’d be me?

This anthology permits and encourages us to write our own parts and complete ourselves. We can be made anew by the alchemic act of reading the poems. They’re a clarion call for future generations, exhorting us to listen – but only to ourselves, and to the voices which help us grow strong. Not the other mean-natured rubbish voices. As Cajsa Landin writes in “Words for my Unborn Daughter”:

into this world
Do not tread lightly

Do not go gentle.
They will treat you
like a frail baby bird
They will coddle and caress you
and you’ll think it a great kindness
because the world scares you
Now that they’ve told you it should –
Do not listen.

Hell, no. Do not listen. Fuck listening to all that shadowsplaining going on. But read.

There’s wit in this anthology, and beauty, and subversion. And subversion must acknowledge the ugly. The ugly side of gender molds. In what feels much like a deft echo of “If” by Rudyard Kipling, Spirit de la Mare writes of what a man can be, and has been, and what he shouldn’t be:

Maybe I too will be a man,
When I learn to leave
Those I love
And let them grieve.
Maybe I too will be a man,
When I touch where I ought not,
When all of my decency
I seem to have forgot

Men can be, will be and frequently are bloody wonderful. But, always, society is filled with shadows – those awful shadows determined to shadowsplain everything so that poets must once more get their quills and alembics out and turn the shit to gold.

Burn away the dark. Read and write your own truths. Define your own birth, growth and adolescence. Be a woman, if a woman is indeed what you are. And buy this book.

The #Woman anthology, edited by Rita Osei and Michelle Olley, is published by Rich Witch Films & Publishing and available to buy on Amazon.

More on the #Woman anthology poets and editors

Rita Osei and Michelle Olley offer readers an introduction to the poets whose work is compiled in this anthology, with notes on why they were selected:

The Poets

Basia Palka
Poet. Artist. Community leader
The legendary Basia is a regular performer of song and poetry, as well as an active member, of Glasgow’s Polish Social and Educational Society. Her collected anthology, Painting with Poetry: My Prayer, is a thing of beauty. We chose Basia because she is wise.

Musician. DJ. WITCiH Founder
Bishi’s genre-busting career includes two critically acclaimed albums, headlining at the Royal Festival Hall, residencies in New York, collaborations with legendary producer, Tony Visconti, performing a duet with Labour MP, Tony Benn and setting up WITCiH – the Women in Technology Creative Industries Hub. The three pieces featured here are taken from her latest song cycle, The Good Immigrant, inspired by the work of another of our featured poets Salena Godden, in turn inspired by Nikesh Shukla’s anthology of the same name. We chose Bishi for her alchemical skills in forging the past, present and future into something uniquely apposite for our times.

Cajsa Landin
Poet. Writer. Food and Travel Writer
A Swedish writer based in New York, Cajsa’s writing leans in to the existential beauty of the beats. We chose Cajsa for her observational sagacity and lust for life.

Cerris Morgan-Moyer
Actress. Writer. Voice Artist.
A movie actor and voice artist (credits include Snowbound, Appaloosa and Black Panther) with poetry in the family. Cornwall-born, Los Angeles based Cerris is married to a poet, and is the daughter of writers. We chose Cerris for her performer’s perspective.

Hélèn Muddiman
Composer. Musician. Song Writer
Hélène is an Ivor Novello Award nominee (for her work on the movie, Skin) with an impressive resumé in film, TV, pop songwriting and the commercial arena. We chose Hélène for her inspirational work across the musical spheres.

Leah Moore
Author. Columnist. Digital Comics Evangelist
Leah Moore has been writing for comics since 2002. Her wide-ranging body of work includes the Albion series, two graphic novel adaptations of the ghost stories of M R James, (both co-authored with husband, John Reppion), a Beth Ditto story for feminist icon comic, Femme Magnifique, and launching the free-to-use digital comics platform and generator, Electricomics, in 2013. We chose Leah because we really wanted to see what that shining mind would do with poetry.

Marianna Palka
Actress. Director. Screenwriter
A multi award winning, multi hyphen with an impressive list of movies, documentaries and stage and screen roles. Her work has been Oscar shortlisted twice, and Emmy nominated. Her latest feature film, Bitch is a feminist dramedy. We chose Marianna, (who you may recognise as Vicky the Viking in Netflix’s Glow), for her openness.

Marijne Van Der Vlugt
Singer. Song Writer. Voice Artist
Marijne, a Dutch musician based in London and former MTV VJ, is the lead vocalist in 90s’ indie band, Salad, who have been enjoying a recent resurgence. We chose Marijne for her unique pop sensibility and outlook.

Writer. Artist. Theatrical and Events Producer.
Moksha has performed spoken word on the London and festival circuit, and now performs with her band, The Wonderists. She has also written issue-based plays for teenagers, which are performed by actors in schools throughout the UK, and has written a short film on self-harm that won an educational award. We chose Moksha for her fire and heart.

Nana Ghana
Artist. Actress. Filmmaker
As we go to press, Nana is trending on the #onestowatchlist on Twitter, thanks to her sparkling role in 2018 Sundance pick, White Rabbit. Her upcoming experimental documentary, LA Woman Rising, is an inspirational piece on being a woman in the city of angels. We chose Nana for her vitality and truly individual spirit.

Salena Godden
Poet. Performer. Author
We are huge fans of Ted Hughes award nominee Salena’s written and live work. Salena is at the vanguard of making modern poetry count. Two of the pieces chosen here for #Woman are from LiveWire – a fantastic recording of Salena in full, glorious flow. We chose Salena because she is so inspiring.

Stav B
Artist. Performer. LGBTQ Activist
Stav B’s many talents include performance and video art, broadcast DJing with Reel Rebels Radio and founding Stav B’s Liquor Bar – a pop-up, speakeasy-style cocktail oasis. Her work often deals with identity, and makes use of all art forms from sculpture through music, dance and poetry. We chose Stav B for her vibrant nature.

Spirit De La Mare
Writer, Editor-In-Chief, Poet
True to her name, Spirit is a passionate arts champion. A mentor as well as an entrepreneur, she is the founder of award-winning @broguemagazine, a trustee for the ArtCan organisation and a Governor of the independent school, Roedean. We chose Spirit for her love for words and art in all its forms.

Zoe Palmer
Writer. Opera Maker. Environmentalist
Zoe Palmer FRSA is passionate about social justice and the transformative power of the arts. She is currently delivering the Royal College of Music’s research project Music and Motherhood: investigating the effects of music on postnatal depression. She also created the sublime Musical Rumpus interactive experience for babies. We chose Zoe for her unique understanding of sound.

The Editors

Rita Osei is a filmmaker, writer and artist. She graduated in Visual Arts from University of the Arts, Camberwell College in the mid 90’s. Her debut feature film, Bliss!, will soon be available worldwide, and is currently screening on Sky Movies in New Zealand.

Michelle Olley is a writer and theatrical producer. She spent her twenties and thirties herding cats and scraping deadlines on various magazines, including Skin Two, Attitude and pioneering gay lifestyle title, Fable, Michelle has written and edited six anthologies of art and photography, and contributed to many publications, including The Sunday Times, DJ, The Independent, i-D, Bonafide and Vice.

Feature art: #WOMAN Chapter Illustration for BIRTH by Kate Enters