Belle About Town doesn’t need to tell you that women have been under represented and ignored throughout history. And that despite forward steps, they are still lacking a voice – including in the literary world.
For Books’ Sake is all about promoting and celebrating writing by women for women, and since their launch in 2010 have done huge amounts to raise the profile of many talented authors. Their latest project aims to give a voice to some of those women who have been forgotten in history – those who have been wronged, the revolutionary voices quietened, or the quiet heroines simply ignored.
Furies is their poetry anthology which aims to put this right. Retelling and reimagining the stories of women through history, it’s a collection of ambitious and activist poetry combined after an open call for submissions attracted over 700 entries from across the globe. Myths and histories are often blurred by masculine accounts and tales, and in this case the poets have been able to set the story straight – at least through their lyrical eyes in powerful and profound ways.
As Eve Lacey, editor says, the theme is one to ‘challenge the notions of both warrior and victim, to trouble the stereotypes of wronged and vengeful women…through a project of retelling – to trawl through literary history and write heroines anew.’ This is a topic made particularly resonant with the decision to donate all profits to Rape Crisis, an independent, registered charity providing essential support to survivors of rape and sexual violence. Voices are being given not only to historic figures and women writers, but those in our modern society who are being ignored and forgotten.
The team at For Book’s Sake received pieces from as far afield as India and New Zealand, Hawaii and Macedonia, featuring women from film, fiction, history, music, art and activism, or rebels in their own home, of periods modern, mythic, historic or current.
Whittling these down to the final 58 entries that comprise the beautiful hardback book was no easy task, but an educational one as Lacey read and reread the lines penned by supportive writers from around the globe.’ I learnt about a lot of new Furies – including the Inuit sea-mother Nerrivik, as told by Susan Richardson; Imtiaz Dharker’s Surpanakha, retold from the Indian epic the Ramayana; and American actress Dorothy Gale, who features in Amber West’s tribute to a Frida Kahlo painting.’
There were some women who featured more than once, with Lillith (Adam’s first wife according to Jewish folklore) being chosen the most popular wronged character to be defended, closely followed by the object of Greek king Zeus’s affections Leda and snake haired Medusa. In addition to the open call several commissioned pieces feature, from poets whose work had been admire and had previously reviewed on For Books’ Sake, including published and prize winning published and prize-winning authors Imtiaz ,Dharker Rebecca Goss and Patience Agbabi.
To celebrate the launch, and National Poetry Day, For Books’ Sake have kindly let us publish one of the poems to make the final cut, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s first person articulation of Medusa repossessing her femininity.
Days when I needed to slough my skin
stitch the wounds with fish bone twine
so I could suffer as I meant to; my statement
of intent. Days filled with stone, spent with only
me, days spent alone. Days I was a dissenter of my own
cause, days when I’d think to drop glasses
and shuffle across the floor on my hands and knees
just to bleed. Days spent watching the unravelling
and catching the threads just in time, stuffing the
secret into my head, fistfuls of hissing, black-eyed rot.
Days when I forgot. Days when I could not.
Days when days turned faster than a cricket
chirruping their victory on green legs that
I pulled off, clawed off until I caught the sun
and stared until my eyes were scarred with
daytime stars. Most days though, follow on.
It’s a case of taking them, one by one.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave
About For Books’ Sake
For Books’ Sake is the independent charitable organisation dedicated to empowering women and girls to tell their stories and have their voices heard. Founded in 2010, For Books’ Sake supports, educates and celebrates women writers of all backgrounds and abilities, championing classic and contemporary writing by established, emerging and marginalised women authors.
Through a national programme of events and workshops, online editorial, publishing imprint and other projects, For Books’ Sake aims to counteract systemic, institutionalised gender biases impacting women writers, providing an alternative platform plus resources for writers, readers, publishers, educators, and more.
About Rape Crisis England & Wales
Rape Crisis England & Wales is an independent, registered charity providing essential support to rape crisis centres. RCEW supports and promotes the work of its autonomous member Rape Crisis centres in England and Wales, and campaigns continuously to raise awareness of sexual violence, its prevalence and effects. Rape Crisis centres provide crucial crisis and long-term specialised support, counselling and independent advocacy for women and girls of all ages who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any time in their lives; whether recently or in the past. Rape Crisis centres are community-based, and independent of government and the criminal justice system.