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Let’s Raise a Chant for Women across the World -Guest Blog

I’m guest blogging about my reason to write Chant of a Million Women at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Read it below and do go over to her page to comment, and also read the other guest blogs.

Guest author: Shirani Rajapakse – Chant of a Million Women

Let’s Raise a Chant for Women across the World

Have you ever felt there was something you needed to say but didn’t know how to articulate it? Maybe you felt the things you wanted to say wouldn’t be accepted by people, or they wouldn’t understand or feel awkward reading about them? It isn’t easy to speak about topics that are taboo or difficult to discuss. No one wants to address subjects that make them uncomfortable so these matters get shoved into the back of a cupboard and forgotten. But the problems don’t go away. They simmer in the background and grow bigger and darker until they consume everything. Yet no one wants to address the elephant in the room.

Chant of a Million Women is a poetry collection that addresses the very issues that people feel awkward to talk about. Published in August this year, the poems raise concerns people shy away from like abuse, discrimination and the role of patriarchy in defining and controlling women’s lives.

 

“You can’t mold me into

                 

something you want—those

rough hands trying to create

dreams that can only shatter.” (Response to a Man)

 

I believe poetry is a good way of dealing with matters that are difficult to express, taking the topics one by one and opening them out in a way that people don’t feel out of their depth. At least that’s what I hope. I’ve brought together different stories of diverse women in various places and attempted to tell their story in verse. Their stories, their sorrows with my words.

 

“You rape and torture and

target us even when small and unable

to defend ourselves against brute force.

 

You forget we have rights too.

Law enforcement men turn the other way or

tell us we deserved it for being who we are.

They hurt us more, but we stand our ground.” (You Can’t Handle It)

 

Everywhere we look women are shortchanged. Every day somewhere in the world a woman or girl is raped, killed, abused or discriminated against and no one seems to care. You’d think it was in so called ‘backward cultures’ but it is hard to look away when it happens right in your own neighborhood or to someone you know. We only think we are safe, but seeing the sheer number of instances happening worldwide, we really are far from safe.

“Everyday someone was ground in the dust.

 

The hands of the woman holding the scales

trembled with fury at the injustice,

but no one could take off the blindfold.” (Lines of Control)

 

Women’s bodies are still ‘owned’ by men whether we like it or not. For instance, in many cultures, a woman can’t terminate a pregnancy even when the pregnancy is a result of rape because patriarchy barges in, in the form of religion to tell a woman it’s wrong. Yet patriarchy doesn’t tell her how to cope with the trauma of bringing up the child of her abuser, having to see in the child the horror she experienced every day.

We haven’t really come that far in some aspects. And that’s why we need to keep shouting from the rooftops and getting together around the world to ask, nay, demand our right to be who we are meant to be, not some idea that men think we should be. We are not products or valueless objects that can be used and abused and thrown on a garbage dump.

 

“My body is my own.

Not yours to take

when it pleases you, or

use as collateral in the face      

of wars fought for your greed, or zest to own….

It’s not a product.

Not something to bargain, barter for goods

and services, share with friends,” (Chant of a Million Women)

 

As I watched the hashtag #Metoo on Twitter and repeated in almost every timeline on Facebook I realized the reason we talk about women and what we need, will never stop. It is an undeniable fact that despite the advancement we have made, despite the many accolades women have won and the barriers women keep shattering, women are and will continue to be treated less than what they deserve even in the developed world because, well, sadly one half of the world has yet to appreciate and value the other half of the world and until they do there will continue to be disharmony, discrimination and women will continue to be sidelined. We are more than our bodies. We are half the world and what keeps the world moving.

 

“I’ve got a vote, but

I can’t use it. Can’t make much of a difference.

I’m the major minority.” (Major Minority)

 

We are not defined by the color of our skin, length of our hair, the way we look, the clothes we wear or the work or places we go to. You can read more stories in verse in Chant of a Million Women.

This is the theme poem from my poetry book “Chant of a Million Women” available now at amazon.com or books2read


Author bio

Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and author. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her poetry collection Chant of a Million Women was self published in August 2017 and is nominated for a Reader’s Choice Award.

Rajapakse’s work appears in publications around the world including, Flash:The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Litro, Silver Birch, International Times, City Journal, Writers for Calais Refugees, The Write-In, Asian Signature, Moving WorldsCitiesplus, Deep Water Literary Journal, Mascara Literary ReviewKitaabLakeview Journal, Cyclamens & Swords, New Ceylon Writing, Channels, Linnet’s Wings, Spark, Berfrois, Counterpunch, Earthen Lamp Journal, Asian Cha, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, About Place Journal, Skylight 47, The Smoking PoetNew Verse News, The Occupy Poetry Project and in anthologies, Flash Fiction International (Norton 2015),Ballads (Dagda 2014), Short & Sweet (Perera Hussein 2014), Poems for Freedom (River Books 2013), Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012, Song of Sahel (Plum Tree 2012), Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, World Healing World Peace (Inner City Press 2012 & 2014) and Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence (Plum Tree 2012).

She has a BA in English Literature (University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka) and a MA in International Relations (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India).

She interviews, promotes and review books by indie authors on The Writers Space at shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com


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Chant of a Million Women

Rajapakse explores identity, values and women’s role in society through the poems in Chant of a Million Women. She also looks at the concepts of beauty and the standards imposed on women to conform. Some of the poems are hard hitting and take on subjects that are uncomfortable to talk about like rape, female gender mutilation, abuse and male dominance. She talks about power and the quiet force that keeps half the world moving even when there is no hope. The language is simple yet the thoughts and ideas are not. They rise from the depth of our very being to swirl through the pages compelling the reader to step into worlds created within the covers. There is magnificence and strength juxtaposed with violence and weakness as are other opposites such as the divine and human frailty. These poems are like a breath of fresh air, provoking, mesmerizing and entertaining. At our core is a chant, soft, like the susurrus of leaves only breezes understand. Sometimes it opens lips to sing like gurgling waters meandering from here to there, to wherever it flows, or the soft tread of footfalls on the path outside. But sometimes, it’s a roar so loud thunder stops in its tracks in awe.

“Truly the voice of millions of women can be heard throughout these pages. It belongs in every school library and the title poem, Chant of a Million Women, should be memorized by every girl (and boy) in every country, its theme, “my body is a temple” chiseled in every heart and holy place across the Earth.” Amazon review by K.M


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Litro

This is Home is a short story I wrote last year about a Palestinian woman stuck in the middle of the conflict. Check it out here.

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Channels

My poem titled “The Capital” is included in “Channels” Volume 19. Channels is an annual publication that features contemporary Sri Lankan Writing and is published by the English Writers’ Cooperative (EWC) Sri Lanka. It’s not available online and I’m posting the poem here.

The Capital

 I

Colombo clicks her heels

tonight as music throbs in hidden

spaces. Lights blink

as they guide the way along lush

avenues, winding, trees

bending in acknowledgement.

The breezes blow cool

and calm across waters cleared,

now winking as the lights reflections

spread out across the lakes, canals

and waterways free to flow

as they wish. Old world charm sprawls

while modernity rises

from the earth. Brick by brick

the future beckons. The city smiles

at the wonders ahead.

II

The avenue of independence

has lost her soul. Torn

down by the puppets of the people.

A debauched brain ordered the change.

The earth shudders as trees

crash to the ground,

the birds scatter, their nests

lost in the dust of development,

progress, the need to renew.

The dogs rounded up and sent off

to die. Boiled, gassed. That’s their fate.

There’s no place for the likes

of them in this city

brand spanking new. Not for the likes

of canine, avian; the crows

or strays. The beggars

they kill, their heads smashed with rocks

no better than dogs and left to rot

on pavements. The blood stains on

concrete blocks licked up by

scavengers. The city mourns

and wonders what lies ahead.

© 2013 Shirani Rajapakse

Poems for Freedom

In February 2013, Freedom Press an anarchist publisher in Whitechapel, East London was firebombed. Alex Clarke brought together a group of poets to Donate A Poem for Freedom to raise funds in support of Freedom Press. This is the result – an anthology of 45 poems by The Freedom Poets, a group of established an emerging poets. Released today Poems for Freedom is available on lulu.

Poems for Freedom