Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.

(Rita Dove)

Arriving International Women’s Day, Thursday March 8th, 2018 #WOMAN is 50 poems by 16 female artists from across the globe and the creative spectrum. Including published works, repertoire pieces and new words written especially for this anthology. It is the first in a series, dealing specifically with the journey from child to #WOMAN.

How did you come up with the concept of #WOMAN?

Originally conceived by Rita in 2013, and as a tribute to the unofficial “Bard of Stepney”, late spoken word activist, Gladys McGee who introduced her to female Poets during a workshop at school in the 1980’s. Our concept was to produce a poetry anthology series dealing specifically with the dance from child to WOMAN. Birth, Growth and Adolescence we thought equally universal and personal themes. Strong 'jumping off points' for using poetry to shed light on our authors' lived experience. Remapping the territory, our way, is a reference to the semanticist Alfred Korzybski's quote The map is not the territory - which is to say that what we are told we are doesn't often chime with our lived experience. By focusing on women’s stories, women’s view points and women’s experiences. As every woman’s ‘story’ is unique. We want to highlight, what we believe, that all stories are interesting.

Why poetry, why now?

Poetry is one of the oldest and purest creative forms. It doesn't require loads of equipment, paint, costumes etc. It can distil ideas and feelings into something powerful that stays with you. It can make you laugh, it can create empathy, and it can speak truth to power. Poetry is a way to connect with people. By engaging creatively with our own understanding of three 'life phases' - in this case using poetry - we are mapping out our own experience in ways that, hopefully, may be useful/illuminating to others. It's about making space for personal insight. Something we can all do if we choose to.

What was your criteria for selecting each contributor?

We wanted a mixture of established poets and talented women from across a broad range of creative fields - from opera librettists to filmmakers. We set out to see what they would do with the medium and the results have been outstanding. Artist and curator Kate Enters, founder of Art Can responsible for the wonderful illustrations.

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.

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.

#WOMAN is edited by Rita Osei and Michelle Olley, and is published by Rich Witch Films & Publishing.