The book launch for Chant of a Million Women concluded a little while ago. I’ll share a little bit of the history of my book.
Chant of a Million Women has been in the making for about five years. I never thought the poems here would be part of a collection because when I started writing poetry I had no objective of publishing collections that were theme based. My poems are on diverse topics that are as far off as the sun and the moon. I was submitting to literary journals and anthologies and it was very encouraging to have many poems published.
But as I started accumulating more poems I realized that the only way I could keep track of all the poems was to separate them into themes. I was already finding it quite tiresome to wade through folders to find poems to submit to journals. Separating them into themes and sub – themes was definitely the way to go. I found some themes had more poems while some, less. Soon sub themes were merged or changed and I had about four themes.
The strongest was about women.
I had enough for a chapbook but I didn’t want to publish this collection as a chapbook because I realized that there were more stories I needed to tell in verse; stories that were getting written down in my mind. All I needed was to get my lines organized to write them down.
By the end of 2015 I had my collection. I took the name of one of the poems as the title of the book – Chant of a Million Women – because this is not just poems about women. It is about our stories, our lives, our loves and losses. It is about the despair and heartache we face as well as the humiliation, violence at the hands of our male peers and family and friends. It is also about the strength we have within ourselves even at the most trying times and of our ability to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs.
Several incidents that took place around me influenced my thinking. The horrendous gang rape of a young girl in Delhi and the lukewarm response to the child that was raped, the vehement outcry against a Tunisian woman from Femen for exposing her body in public, young girls caught up in the war in the Middle East and most terrible of all, the attempt to stone a defenseless Sri Lankan woman working in Saudi Arabia for allegedly having an affair out of marriage, and several others became topics to explore issues of violence against women, exploitation and patriarchy.
Yet everything is not dark and dreary. There are moments of fun and amusement and also power and strength of women who not only rise up like the lotus rising from the mud, but they also play equal if not superior to the male.
It is a chant.
And now I bring it to you. Seventy three poems about, and, for women, that were influenced by women – mostly unknown women, sit within the folds of the cover.
Take them as you will. You may see your reflection in some or recognize a friend in another. They travel from history, through continents and time. They are a chant that bubbles low at times but roars at others.
“My body is my temple.
Enter with reverence.”
Chant of a Million Women is now available in stores worldwide.
Audrey Barber is the founder member of Silent Women Saving Women (SWSW) and an hotelier based in the Middle East. In January 2000 her life changed when she and her fiancée were attacked by a group of six men. Her fiancée fought off the men and her life was saved. But his wasn’t, and he died in her arms at the hospital. That experience left her shattered but she didn’t give up the fight for justice. Five years later the attackers were sentenced to death. Audrey made up her mind to fight for others who didn’t have a voice.
Volunteering at various charities and centres for women and children she came across many young girls who were abused, raped and molested and some even committing suicide as a result of the trauma they faced. Joining with women in the Middle East who had experienced similar tragedies and atrocities she formed SWSW, a group of women from the Middle East actively working towards uplifting the lives of women and young girls who have been abused and exploited, turning her tragic story into one of hope for many other women.
After seeing a 14 year old Yemeni girl who had been sold off to a 41 year old man brought to the child welfare center brutally raped with acid thrown on her private parts, she decided to act. The girl didn’t survive but Audrey vowed she would do whatever she could to help such girls to get an education and live the life they rightfully deserved.
She visited Yemen to meet other women who are “doers” and strengthened SWSW. When SWSW becomes aware of any child about to be sold, or sold as a child bride it intervenes making contact with the Man or his counter-parts/family and negotiate a reasonable price for the child to be given to SWSW. The child is taken out of the country and brought to the specific location where she is treated/checked by a doctor within the group. The child is provided shelter and counselling as well as placed in a local school. This is for children who have not been raped or sexually assaulted. For those who have been molested, raped, sexually abused the process is more intense because apart from medical attention they also require assistance in dealing with trauma, as these girls are physically and emotionally destroyed.
SWSW has now extended its work beyond Yemen and work in Egypt, Afghanistan and several other mid-eastern countries. SWSW is not affiliated to any organization or human rights group. It is merely a group of women who have endured atrocity and trauma who have come together to help other women and save girls. The work it does is self funded.
Audrey has two wards – two Afghan sisters she rescued. The elder was raped by her uncle and the other is just 5 years old. Both girls are orphans but are now leading a happy life. They will be handed over to the state since she is a single female and a non Muslim and therefore cannot adopt, according to the law of the land.
Celine Leduc is a poet, artist and activist for women’s rights. She is the founder of “Waking Up Women” a Facebook group that brings news and the story of all women and offers alternative news and perspectives.
Celine’s M.A. in religion history and philosophy specialty is Women in Judaism and Islam. Her thesis was about Jewish women from Egypt who live in Montreal between 1947 and 1967, a look at their struggles as immigrants.
She is currently working on Decolonizing the Euro-mind and mindset that is based on the Romanizing of the mind. Rome is the first colonizer who wanted control of the whole world in the name of god. They took away the rights of women and most laws or legal systems that come out of Roman Law. Napoleon and British Law (English Law) destroyed legal systems and created religious wars as it took away right of women.
She is also writing a book on the We-story and introspection of non-inclusive European history. Because, we have His story, Her story that is a copy of history which is a We-story as it does not include the contribution of all women and men from around the world. Inspired by Professor Bello who wrote the story of Ayiti and called it OURstory which is an introspection on the story of Ayiti.
Sarah Lamar King is California made, moving to Washington early in life, where she currently resides. Born to a musician and a free spirit who weren’t ready to be parents, she was adopted when she was 6 months old. She met her biological father for the first time when she was 23. They remained close until his death on Valentines day 2003. She met her biological mother a handful of times throughout her life, few and far between, as her mother went where the wind and the alcohol took her. These events as well as raising a disabled child, dealing with loss and hopelessness, domestic violence, and walking in others shoes, have all contributed to the pieces she writes.
Sarah has been writing elegiac poetry for most of her life. With adversity and melancholy as a constant companion, she pours real, raw, dark emotion into every piece she writes.
Her first published book of dark poetry, published by Creative Talents Unleashed, titled ‘My North Star Misled Me’, has received numerous, profound 5 star reviews since its release in January of 2016.
Her 2nd collection ‘Melancholy’s Autograph ‘ delves into the darker side of the human condition and turmoils so many of us face. Summarized as “Deep and raw, Sarah’s words are soul food, providing sustenance for those hungry for real art.” ~ OD