Several issues are discussed in Chant of a Million Women. There’s also quite a range of emotions carefully placed between the pages. In the following weeks I’ll talk about a few poems.
But I’ll start with the first poem. “At the Side of the Old Mandir” This not only sets the stage as it were to the collection but it also kind of pulls in the idea of the role of women from history to the present not being very different.
The influence for the poem was a statue of a woman at the side of a mandir (temple) in India. The old beautiful carvings on the outsides of temples depict women in many poses. Almost all of them are of women with large breasts and voluptuous hips.
I’ve traveled a lot in India and seen many interesting places. Since I like art, history and culture my travels tend to take me to places where I can find all of this in abundance and the old temples are a definite must see on my itinerary.
Viewing the statues and images I came across an interesting find. In quite a few of the images of women in the carvings in mandirs and abandoned places the breasts were darker and I used to wonder why, until one day I saw why when I turned a corner in a lonely mandir and surprised a devout follower of whatever God resided inside that mandir.
The image of that encounter I witness stayed in my mind although I wrote about it many years later.
At the Side of the Old Mandir
They come to this place every day
to touch you.
Lonely men with desires unfulfilled.
Can’t afford the real thing, costs too much
these days, a glance, a caress.
They can barely afford food for the day.
You’re the best they can have;
voluptuousness in stone.
They ogle and marvel, then
gradually draw nearer.
A furtive glance in every direction to check
if anyone’s watching and a hand
lifts up to cup a breast.
Human and rock merge for a blissful moment.
An eternity passes as time
drags itself to a screeching halt.
Sighs of contentment escape.
they return to a place at a distance,
to admire and hope.
Later, moving inside they speak to God, plead
with him, cajole, sometimes demand.
Karma always questioned in times like this.
A truth hard to accept.
The reasons why never defined, lying hidden
in the cosmic ether beyond their
Your breasts are a shade darker than
the rest of your body,
colored from constant caresses of
lonesome men seeking stolen pleasures.
A slow smile playing on your lips, one arm
resting on a hip pushed out to the side,
the other raised from the elbow,
fingers encircling lotus, you stand waiting
for what might be, as they shuffle past,
like the devout, softly singing praise
of the one within.
Quietly taking in their fill they return to
homes devoid of love and desire.
Who are you,
proud woman standing nonchalantly
gazing into the distance as they walk past?
What was your fate?
Willed by the hand that chiseled
you from a large rock hewn out from
another place one sunny day eons ago.
Who was the man that yearned for you so,
he cast you in stone in remembrance
to watch over the years
and give hope to
a multitude of desperate souls?
This idea behind the incident I saw and the image of the dark breasted statues reminded me of something I saw in a telephone booth on a street in London. This was a time before the mobile phone and if you needed to make a call you’d use a public phone. I don’t know if those still exist, but one of the things that greeted you when you entered one of those phone boxes was a whole load of calling cards with photos of women, much like the statues of the women in those ancient temples. It appeared as though modern women were trying to emulate the statues which were probably carved out by men who were seeking the ideal woman and not finding that around them, they were creating images in stone.
It seemed very sad. We’d come so far yet as women we hadn’t given up the notion of pleasing others – of turning our bodies into objects of pleasure for men and it didn’t matter that we were getting exploited as well. “On a Street in London” ends the collection. Between those two poems there’s just about every emotion and situation women have faced, put down in verse.
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.
After many years of keeping quiet, Madeleine Black decided in September 2014, to share her story on The Forgiveness Project’s website and she completely underestimated what the response would be.
Many women and men got in contact and explained how reading her story gave them strength, hope, and a different perspective of what’s possible in their lives. The founder of The Forgiveness Project, Marina, often refers to the various people on her website as “story healers” rather than “storytellers” and now she completely understood why.
In March 2015, Jessica Kingsley Publishers released a book called The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, by Marina Cantacuzino. It’s a collection of 40 stories from the TFP website, including hers and has forewords by Desmond Tutu and Alexander McCall Smith.
The sharing of her story also opened many doors for her in ways she never imagined and after that the invitations started to pour in.
She has taken part in a film interview for a documentary about rape and the anonymity laws, which will be shown on Dispatches, Channel 4 and has been interviewed for STV News.
In December 2015 she gave her first public talk at a Festival of Light at the University of Keele. The theme was “Making Peace with the Enemy”. From that night she was asked to give three more talks on the same theme and has spoken at many other events too.
She has been interviewed by Dan Walker on BBC Radio 5 Live and talked about Forgiveness and Health, which led to interviews with Stephen Jardine on BBC Radio Scotland sharing her story and most recently with Sir Trevor McDonald on BBC Radio 4 talking about Redemption.
Her voice has been weaved into a performance called Foreign Body Play by Imogen Butler-Cole and has taken part in questions and answers after the show which will be taken to Edinburgh Festival next year.
She has been invited to share her stories with younger audiences too and recently spoke with 150 5th year pupils at a High school in Cork and hopes to do more of this work.
She recognises that she was a victim of a crime that left her silent for many years, but has now found her voice and intends to use it. Not just for her, but for so many who can’t find theirs yet. Sexual violence is so deeply entrenched in our culture and she hopes that by simply speaking out and writing about it, she can help to combat it by reducing the stigma while promoting a cultural change.
She has certainly felt the power and healing effects in sharing her story and hopes that her book will help other victims of sexual violence, crime, PTSD, and anyone who has struggled with forgiveness. She wants to spread her message: It’s not what happens to us that is important, but what we do with what happens to us and if we choose to, we can get past anything that happens to us in life.
She is 51 years old, married, work as a psychotherapist, and live in Glasgow with her husband, three daughters, her cat, Suki, and dog, Alfie.
The launch of my poetry book Chant of a Million Women will take place on August 22, 2017 on Facebook. Drop in to find out about the book, learn about why I wrote some of the poems, read excerpts of poems and talk poetry. Post questions and join in the discussion about issues raised in my poems and also in the work of my co-writers who will take over for short spells. There will be giveaways of cool stuff including copies of the ebook.
Joining me in hosting the launch are,
Madeleine Black (Unbroken: One Woman’s Journey to Rebuild a Life Shattered by Violence. A True Story of Survival and Hope, John Blake 2017),
Sarah Lamar King (My North Star Misled Me, CTU 2015; Melancholy’s Autograph, CTU, 2017),
Celine Leduc (poet, artist and women’s rights activist), and
Audrey Barber (poet, survivor and women & children’s rights activist).
The launch will be for one and a half hours. Wherever you are around the world log in at this time from your time zone.
0330 hrs Pacific Standard Time
0630 hrs Eastern Standard Time
1030 hrs GMT
1600 hrs Sri Lankan Time
2030 hrs Melbourne, Australia Time
See you there and bring your friends.
I’m launching “Chant of a Million Women” on August 21 at 2100 hrs Sri Lankan Time. Drop in at my Facebook Event page wherever you are in the world. Bring a friend. Lots of friends. Spread the word. Let’s talk poetry and about the book, and issues faced by half the world’s population.