Mar 28 17



Songs My Enemy Taught Me – Joelle Taylor

Welcome to my blog site. On this blog you will be able to follow me on my journey to complete my new collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me. You will be able to follow the research and development process, read poetry and flash fiction (more…)

May 9 17

Online Masterclass


As a part of the Songs My Enemy Taught Me book research process I have been leading a series of poetry masterclass around the UK, with the aim of empowering women to write their own stories.

At one of the masterclasses which took lace at the Wise Words Festival in Canterbury, I was reminded of how difficult it is for women, especially with young children to get be able to attend workshops. When I first launched my career as a writer of theatre each venue and credible arts project had a creche attached to them to enable women to join in, and t help develop a sense of community between mothers. These have almost all disappeared now, an so I want to look at a different way of accessing the masterclasses.

Over the next month I will be adding resources here along with exercise guidelines to help users develop their writing. The results can be emailed to me and I will post them up along with the other poetry from masterclasses.

It is hoped that this will develop still further into Skype workshops and eventually into us all meeting at one of the book launches.

Please keep your eye on this page – and feel free to add your own exercises  too.

May 9 17

Submissions Information


The aim of this blog site is to begin an archive of women’s voices. Some of the poems on the site are written by women who have not written before and who I have found through masterclasses, and others are from known poets. The idea is not only to create a library of women’s poetry but to also assist on the networking of those poets. This blog is ongoing. It will not end.


May 9 17

AJ McKenna


AJ McKenna is a fat trans lesbian known mainly for shouting at people about death threats, hair removal cream and public toilets. A multiple slam-winning performance poet, journalist, educator and LGBT rights activist, AJ uses her unique combination of humour, passion and vulnerability to tackle prejudice head-on.

AJ has performed extensively around the country, headlining events like Jibba Jabba, Forked and Jawdance. Summer 2014 marked her first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe, where she performed to full houses at Other Voices and Outspoken. The first act to perform in both the Women’s and Trans Zones at Newcastle Pride, AJ has also performed well-received sets at Bar Wotever, She Grrrowls and Transpose, the UK’s biggest event for transgender performance, music and film. She has also performed at conferences and events outside of the traditional poetry circuit, including gigs for Skeptics in the Pub, the Gay and Lesbian Humanists Association, and Britain’s largest teaching union, the NASUWT.

In 2013, AJ was one of only five poets chosen from around the UK to work with Apples and Snakes and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to create a poetry film for Architects of Our Republic, a project to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. AJ’s contribution, Letter to a Minnesota Prison, filmed by Laura Degnan, told the story of CeCe McDonald, a black trans woman imprisoned in the US for protecting herself from a transphobic, racist attack. The film was premiered at the Royal Festival Hall as part of a day-long event culminating in performances from Dizraeli, Zena Edwards and rap pioneers The Last Poets, and has been shown at festivals and events around the country since. AJ’s work has also been featured on Basic FM, at the BBC Free Thinking Festival, and on Pride Radio North East.

AJ has published two pamphlets of poetry, A Lady of a Certain Rage and names and songs of women, and a spoken-word album, …the gunshots which kill us are silent. An active and prolific YouTube user, AJ’s videos have appeared on sites including Guardian Witness and leading feminist blog The F-Word. Her poem ‘You’re F*cking Dead LOL J/K’ was selected as one of the first contributions for Banter Kill, the magazine of feminist campaign Dismantling Lad Culture.

‘Spoken word is a field often better titled ‘accidental activism’, with the power to change the way people think about things. AJ McKenna is an intentional activist, one of those rare writers capable of making even British audiences launch to their feet with an ever so polite “f*ck yeah”. Her intelligence is rare, her eloquence is almost unparalleled, her poems are crucial.’ – Sophia Walker, BBC Slam Champion

Her first one-woman show, Howl of the Bantee, premiered at the PBH Free Fringe in Edinburgh this August. She is currently working on a follow-up show, Feeling Helpless, Safely, which will explore issues of BDSM, power and consent. She is a former Deputy Editor of the online LGBT magazine So So Gay, and regularly reviews film and television for feminist pop culture blog Clarissa Explains Fuck All.

When not writing, performing or editing, AJ witters on about politics, trans issues, and whatever else is bothering her this week at her blog, Reenchaunted, and tweets probably more than is strictly sensible at @Anathemajane

To contact AJ McKenna for gigs or publishing opportunities please email and I will pass your message on. Please note that all poems included here are the copyright of AJ McKenna and may not be reproduced without permission.

art brut

I love your body’s sense of being ashlar and marshmallow,

your musclefat, your ripple and your meat;

your tender brawn, the size-up of your squint:

your attitude, your fluency in aggro.


I love the fact your hands can cover mine,

the way you twist my arm behind my back,

the torque with which your muscles wrench my neck;

the way that you, divinely, take your time


before releasing: how your sweat can shine.


I love the way your eyes flash when we fight,

the enormities you whisper in my ear:

dyke, bitch, she-male, faggot, tranny, queer;

the way you bring my vulnerabilities to light,


the capacity your thighs and concrete share,

of standing mute and dramatizing fear.

I love your violent vertu, your brute art:

the way you have me beaten from the start.


Jesmond Dene

The thing you need to know about this place

is this place is a beautiful wound:

that waterfall was blasted

out of rock and out of river

at the whim of some rich man. He’s dead.

We still enjoy the view.


All things are wounds in time:

there’s screaming at our birth,

and blood, and terror;

fear, shit and stink

at both ends of the line.


Rough beasts, who think their hour approaches,

have multiplied themselves in screen-lit rooms,

circle-sucking on each other’s saccharine, caffeinated rage.

But wounds don’t smell

as clean and sharp as cans of Mountain Dew.

Your shock, my learned traitor, was exquisite, when it came.


Some secrets fat girls know

That the wrong size is the right size.

That a curve pleases more than a line,

that landscapes must be more than just horizon:

that’s a secret. That’s a secret fat girls know:


that the hungering eye which fastens on abundance

and justifies such feasting with a sneer

will be putty when he’s parted from his buddies.

His secret is a secret fat girls know.


That the noses you look down on as we cut a slice of cake

can smell the buttercream and frosting we’ve got piled up on our plate

and are wishing we’d be good enough to let you have a taste

in secret. That’s a secret fat girls know,


like our sidelong sizing-up

in station, sidewalk, mall and club

of how, our mutual masses clutched

we’d feel as each the other crushed

– but that’s a secret only fat girls know.


No Compromise

for Ava Rowell


I never thought I’d compromise. Never thought I’d change my mind

about us: always thought we were the consolation prizes. Second best.

I knew that they were better, unadulterated girls. It would be settling to settle down

with someone like myself. What changed? You kissed me,


and I thought of how, like me, you’d hate the hair around your mouth,

invisible but there to touch, and kissed you harder for it, hoped my lips

could tell you I know what it is to feel like this, I know

that you will not agree with this, but trust me: you are beautiful,


you will be given love, and you can trust

the quarter that it comes from, because I’m not here for ally points,

to satisfy a fetish, for a trans friend who can sanctify my Jenner jokes.

I’m kissing you because right now your lips are like the sea


I never knew I’d want to swim in during all my landlocked years.

And when I pulled away from you, not wanting to but knowing

that I had to let you breathe, I knew that you saw you reflected

in my eyes without distortion just as I saw me in you, and knew


I’d never settle for refraction not reflection.

Knew I’d never compromise again.


Sapphic 08/09/15

What, of all things beneath the sun, is fairest?

Thousands on foot or the ships sent to take them

to some other island, city or border,

unsettled, dispersed?


Perhaps you think a fence the fairest thing seen,

A thing of razor wire and steel, sun-gleaming,

its check-points manned, all processed in good order?

Perhaps bolt-cutters,


a dinghy to go over water to land,

papers – who, this desperate, cares if they are forged

or genuine? Hope lights on what it can:

to bombs, what’s law?


Perhaps, to you, an antiseptic kill

a drone’s Hellfire payload, deployed cleanly

by a joystick fondled in an air-conned room

in Lincoln – better?


I say the hand that reaches for another

is more fair than marching troops or battleships.

Light work, it should be, to make this plain to see:

would that it were,


but people call, in the name of drowned children,

for bombs; people say our empty land is full,

and praise our leader when he kills by fiat:

Wham. Bam. Thank you Cam.


(this poem contains elements of Sappho Fragment 16, ‘The Anactorian Poem’, as translated by Richard Lattimore)


But why are you so angry?

Do you ever have one of those moments

when you catch yourself in the mirror

and think I have become the kind of woman

I would fuck? I know I have:  I don’t know if

it’s just a dyke thing but I know I have seen flashes

of the women I’ve desired in my body

and my face, and seen that body and that face

reflected in the bodies I have thrilled and thrilled to


and I cannot have this conversation with you,

because I know the line your brain is quoting

from The Silence of the Lambs, and the difference

between us means we do not see that reference

as a bomb our shared good humour can disarm.


To celebrate my body as a thing

worth being attracted to

is to risk crankish diagnoses:

autogynephilia, porn fatigue;

to see yourself as fuckable

is a right you will still find contested, true:

but I will face a harder fight than you.


You Said

You said ‘I touched myself in the shower

and tears came to my eyes,’ and I nodded,

in a noncommittal way,


but wanted to tell you about the time when I got high

on weed smoked through a tinfoil pipe

and worked my dick like it was being shoved inside

me by someone fucking me as if it were a fight

they had no chance of winning on points,

and came so hard that, that moment, I thought I would die:


sometimes, the forces which make you feel joy

will hit you so hard that you cry.







May 9 17

Ali Jones


Ali Jones is a teacher and writer, living in Oxford, England. She holds an MA in English, focused on poetry in domestic spaces and has written poetry in a variety of forms for many years. She is a mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals Spoken Word Anthology, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books., Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016 and has also written for The Guardian. She is interested in writing in the gaps and silences.


The Things They Told Her


They said it was the wisest wound,

to pull her into line with the ancestors

a tapestry of women red threaded on a needlepoint.


They said it was the only way to be pure

and who knows what might have happened,

if they had left her open to the night sky.


They said it was a celebration,

and gathered themselves in beside a tent

that crouched in the afternoon haze.


They said it was sacred,

sang incantations to bring her home.


They said it was love when they captured her,

that running was no use, her path was already marked.


They said it was a prayer when her brothers tied her

hands and feet together and carried her inside.


They said it was a gift when her grandmother

chinked open a new blade, and put it to her skin.


They said it was an offering when they sliced her away,

They said that god would be smiling at her right hand.


They said a lot of things.


Ali Jones 2017

May 9 17

Sarah Crutwell


Sarah Crutwell is a poet and spoken word artist from the north east. Her work aims to address the things that we shouldn’t talk about and takes on issues such as mental health, sexual violation, ingrained sexism and a woman’s right to choose. She aims for her writing style to be sharp and very accessible and for her performance style to be honest and engaging. She is available for spoken word and poetry performances and also working towards getting her first collection published.  For contact information please email

Picture prompt – black and white image of red lip stick mouth under umbrella.

I expected brown envelope on table, lipstick rims, black lace tangled in Egyptian cotton, Rolex ticking down our time together. Pretty Woman playing at independence until the limo parks. It surprises me, how little they look at me. Moved around bed, like a busy schedule. They don’t need me to be in my body, just need the body. The body they can fold and bend round themselves to feel safe in. For as long as they can afford. He would rather give his money than his attention. I can’t feed myself my caring. Can’t pay bills by giving a shit. So he fills me with cock and I tell him it feels good.

Every Wednesday


Sarah Crutwell

May 9 17

Teesside University


In Late April I visited 2 masterclass groups of women in Middlesbrough. I had specified to my host Teesside University that I was interested in connecting with working class women of the North East – especially as that is the demographic largely held responsible for the Brexit vote, according to the British media defined consciousness.

Thanks to the curation and sensitivity of the Senior Lecturers in the MA Creative Writing course Andy Willoughby and Bob Beagrie – both astounding poets themselves and committed to positive world change – I found myself standing in front of 2 packed masterclass groups. It was inspiring and encouraging to see so many women turn out for the sessions, both during the day and the evening. Some of the women has come from the MA course itself, others were graduates, and still more had been invited from the local community.

I came to Middlesbrough as it feels very much like it is a town on the front line of the battle to understand the idea of British identity. There is a predominant white working class community but there is also a strong BAME community, some of whom have come to to the North East for refuge from global war and political conflict. Many of the shops and pubs are closed and shuttered along the main road from the station to town, and Andy points out the dereliction of the steel industry – a broken shadow on the hill overlooking the town. The salamander has been put out. Middlesbrough seems the perfect place to work out where we are all going next.

For these masterclasses I wanted to explore the new form that I have been trying to develop and refine. I think of it as ‘investigative poetry’, a fusion of investigative reporting, poetry and photo journalism. It the way I have been trying to approach complex issues effecting women worldwide – how do I tell the story of a woman in in Sinjar without appropriating that story. Remember, whatever the writer writes, she writes herself first – and I am a white working class heritage woman from the North of England. Using this form, I am trying to tell the stories of women thousands of miles away from me geographically and socially, whilst not owning that story. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, the masterclasses are about empowering women to tell their own stories, and that has to be a fundamental driving factor of the project.

Below are some examples of the extraordinary writing these women produced, along with in some cases the photograph that inspired the poem. All copyright is retained by the individual poets, and if you wish to send a message to any of them you can do so via here.


Black Friday Sale Peeps!
Log into eBay and Amazon
and browse through
blondes and brunettes
We got Whites, Blacks,
Turks, Iraqis and Pakis
We’ll even do two for one
on the used fannies
Bigger boobs are
bigger bucks
It’s a bargain!
When after one day delivery
your cock throbbing hard
you lift the veil and
look into your Mother’s eyes.
Does it turn you on
when she begs and cries?
Tears replacing the colour of her skin
dripping like cum out of the corner
of a whore’s mouth
Bow to your God
as your deep in her clunge
surely rape’s reward
is 72 more with their legs spread
on heaven’s bed,
a bed made of dismembered bones –
and to keep you warm
a duvet stitched out of your victim’s flesh
made for men like you
a picturesque afterlife for the man
who’s wrath spared none
not even his nine year old wife.

Sara Zafar

Janet Philo

Leopard Skin Shoes

A woman sells guns

wearing leopard skin shoes;

flat, ballet, designer,

British – the best.

This woman’s trousers;

loose-legged, brown leather –

shout safe sex at sixty

in leopard skin shoes.


Economies grow as

she travels the money belt;

walks tall on hot pavements

in leopard skin shoes,

where some women kneel,

heads bowed, in the dust.


This woman sells weapons,

standing in leopard skin.

Rooted in in her shoes

she cannot see their shoes

These colour blocked women

wear black, top to toe

accented with skin tones,

and linked in with chains.


Fingernails, this season,

are short, sore and bitten;

where hidden women

cling tight to white signs,

marked up in scarlet,

at competitive prices,

to suit every pocket

in a brisk flesh market

where choice is paramount

and profit the aim

of those who sell weapons

in leopard skin shoes.

Ghazal for the Campers


After Richard Moss – war photographer


It stinks – that dark and putrid pool of shitful mire. She’s longing

for clear water, diamond-bright and cleaned with fire, She’s longing


for the quiet sleep brings, but not the quiet of death. Despite the pain,

the sickness and an empty belly; he’s still a crier – but her, she’s longing


for a time she doesn’t need the sound of wailing, as evidence of life.

Quiet babies don’t light darkness, don’t desire, don’t feel the longing


for the warmth of breath or breast or soft toys long forgotten.

Her baby quietens, does not cry, his eyes are drier now, too dry for longing


Her tears, clear rivers on a dusty cheek, give thanks for one more breath

as fingers curl round hers. Woman – God loves a trier! Keep on longing.

Janet Philo

Caroline Harvey

If you didn’t come home, then what would I do?

Would I hold your picture aloft?

And if so, which one? The one of you drunk

And showing your arse

looking for owls?

That one we deleted but it stayed on Googler pics forever,

And our mam seen it on the bog telly?


And if you gave me a rose, to hold

with your image

Would I say, that twat never bought me one when he was alive?

He bought me trays of eggs on a Friday

And steak off his mate’s mate

Never flowers

And never a rose.


And would I march with strangers

With you in a frame, cos you know

I never go out without a face full of slap

And I never get my photo taken

Well, I’ll do it if I’m forced

But I won’t add them to my timeline.


Too right I’d march.

To the ends of this earth

If anyone hurt a non-existent hair on your head

Like when the lads were little, and

They called me The Tigress

Too right I’d march, with my rose

And your photo in a frame

(but not the one with the owls)


Lottie Coley

Powerful words vs words of power.


Use your words. Find your tongue. The greatest weapon we


as people, as beings,




is the ability to converse. Verbally express. Say what you mean; mean what you say


Express opinion; receive others’ and understand values of exchanging language, words cost nothing but


the cost of not using them, or using them incorrectly,


destroys countries;


brings nations to their knees. Read. Read facts! Request truth! Search for truth. Don’t by-stand and agree with that which


you don’t know.


Be strong with your tongue. Wave it only when the sentiment is true and valued


but wave it.


Bandwagons will ultimately lead you in the wrong direction. Don’t jump on it whilst the horse is bolting


and remember!


The gift horse that offers you a run of freedom and free-reign will undoubtedly bite you.


In the ass.


Find the facts and pick your chancer on the odds that are good. Not those that seem too good to be true. Aesop –


he knows it.


Read. Widely. Ask questions. Read further!


Not just the music sheets that are presented to the entire orchestra of dumbfucks, don’t read the scribbles and take it as gospel. Honest to God


it destroys us.


In a world full of social strength and forums for voice and harmony we


should be


wiser. Make yourself wiser.


Want to be wiser.


Choose knowledge and pass it on. Trainspotters got it right, they choose life.


This! This is our life!


Our future.


Don’t transfer wasted words. Hateful words.


Encounter others. Explore cultures. Share experiences. Use your words.


The ears they reach


will listen.


Make sure your words are worth the value they ultimately offer.


Welcome the worlds of other beings. Welcome the words


of other beings. Even if you don’t agree.


Their voice


is of the same value as yours


Listen. Hear how we love. Hear how we live. How we forgive. The twisted abstract ends of hurtful spite lead to nowhere but bitterness.


Encourage a nation of acceptance, don’t spit your tongue at your neighbour, never refuse, through ignorance, words of value. Accept kindness; offer kindness.


Powerful voices voicing only power


guide us to division;


let us unite with courage and literal strength and values, spread social acceptance. Excitement


of a better world.


Inclusion of all, with no exception, expectation of solidarity, as professed by tittle-tattle,


divides us,


journalists with a dirty soapbox create propaganda, and 52 percent


were washed with it. A nation divided, the truth still out there hovering on the lips of ‘our’ leaders, holding hands and dancing with bigots, she calls


the rain.


The rain dance drumming.


The storms are coming.


Shelter this nation with unity. Find your words. Use them. Say them with confidence, shout them loud and filled with knowledge


and we


we will build a wall. A wall of books of knowledge of wisdom of kindness of acceptance of changed history around the world. A wall of inclusion.


Encompassing all.


We will be the voice of power. With reason and intelligence, and




we will be a powerful voice.


Anonymous (please get in touch if you want your name added here)

You didn’t just take my innocence

You took the innocent relationship between a mother and a child

As I change his nappy and wonder

At what point is it wrong?


Well. Its not wrong

Not at any point

Its just that my mind is skewed

From the platitudes that a person tells themselves

When they take another person’s innocence away.


You didn’t just take my virginity

You took the ability to give all of me to a partner

Who deserves the ability to love some-one who doesn’t have flash-backs

of their very own nightmare


When giving yourself feels right

When the connection between you is one

That transcends the bad that you have carved on my skin

And replaces it with a possibility

A possibility that you can be alright


But you can’t be alright

There is no alright

When alright means something that requires a meeting of minds

But how can you meet a mind that has the skitter of your hands

Across its landscape?


How do you tread the water that is your

Conscious mind, trying to blot out the past

Storing things for later

For when you least expect it


Like when you are consumed with passion

And the shame of remembrance returns

You to the fetal position of the womb

Where you were safe,

And all was simple.


For how do you throw the grenade into your family life

How do you ruin the people that you have tried so hard to protect

When protecting yourself has become impossible

And the noose is tightening around your neck

With each… day… that … passes?

May 9 17

Julie Hogg


Julie Hogg is a poet and teacher with an MA in Creative Writing from Teesside University. She has had work published in many literary journals and magazines including Black Light Engine Room, Butcher’s Dog, Proletarian Poetry, StepAway Magazine and Well Versed. She has featured in anthologies by Ek Zuban, Litmus, Zoomorphic and ‘Writing Motherhood’ from Seren. Her debut pamphlet ‘Majuba Road’ is available from Vane Women Press.


Honi soit qui mal y pense


This Hallowe’en Lolita,

guardian angel in a pocket,

sister’s suedette bodice,

spider-startle-eyes, today

her Mam was sterilised


while a guy in the kitchen

stroked her hair and told her

to not come home until she’d

made a fiver, and another

swore before he caught her,.


threw away her blue inhaler,

skimmed a rocket at her feet,

lit a sparkler, burnt her cheek

like those slaps in flats when

a California sunset projected


onto white Time Rain render,

from that gelded boulevard,

and she thought she saw her

Dad’s face in a standard lamp

epiphany on the seventh floor. (more…)

Apr 20 17

Letters to an Unknown Girl


‘They can sew it shut

But they won’t sew our mouths’


In the masterclass with girls from a Bristol secondary school I asked them if they had anything they would like to say to women across the world affected by FGM.  Some of the girls in the masterclass were directly affected (and so were writing to themselves) whist others shared an understanding of what systematic misogyny does to the real and imagined female body. Here are excerpts from some of their letters. If you are reading this and have survived FGM yourself, know that a 13 year old in the South West of England is thinking of you and wishing you love.

Apr 20 17

Female Genital Mutilation


We are tied together

Once we are tied together

There is no breaking this trust.

Alina, 14 years old

As this blog develops you will read accounts of some of the 18 masterclasses I am leading with women and girls across the UK, from as diverse a collection of communities as I can find, and who are willing to speak and work with me. The blog will take you into women’s prisons, into refugee projects, on to traveller sites, into domestic violence prevention organisations, into extraordinary advocacy projects working with Afghan women landay writers, into the care system, survivor’s groups and white working class areas of extreme economic hardship. If you work with a women’s group who would like to develop their stories through the use of poetry and spoken word, then please do contact me here.

As a part of the project I wanted to work with women and girls affected by female genital mutilation (FGM). I wanted to explore those stories, give the girls the tools with which to tell their own stories and to consider the meaning and symbolism of FGM globally.


Apr 10 17

Amina Ahmed Osman


Amina Ahmed Osman is a poet of Somali heritage who has written extensively around women’s issues, including female genital mutilation. Below are some excerpts from her first collection,.as yet unpublished. This poetry came to after I posted a status on Facebook about working with a group of girls in the UK, some of whom were affected by FGM. Although currently living and working in Somalia, Amina sent these through to me that night – and there will be more coming.


Apr 10 17

Charlotte Ansell


As a part of the collation of an ongoing archive of women’s voices and experiences, I am asking as many poets and writers who identify as women as possible to contribute to this blog. This page is given over to poet Charlotte Ansell.



Apr 3 17

HMP Downview Poetry


This is a page of broken silences. Words are shattered glass here. I will be using this post to add the poetry created during the workshops with the women of HMP Downview, and it will be updated and added to over this week. I’ve only given the women’s first names to protect their privacy. (more…)

Apr 3 17

HMP Downview


We travel at dawn from London Victoria station toward Sutton and my visit with the women of HMP Downview.
With me is Charlie Weinberg, the Director of Safe Ground, the arts organisation who made my masterclasses in prison possible. Joining us is Sarah Hartley from NOVIS, a group that provides education and resources to inmates. (more…)

Mar 30 17

Book Tour Dates


Tour dates are still being confirmed along with links to the venues and prices. I should have all the information posted within the next week, so please do check back for tickets. I will also be inviting special guest poets to join me at events, including Anthony Anaxagorou and Sabrina Mahfouz. (more…)