Please note that this post contains explicit language.
Rachel McCrum has worked as a poet, performer and promoter in Edinburgh since 2012, arriving via Manchester, Belfast, New Zealand, Oxford and a small seaside town in Northern Ireland. She is Broad of Rally & Broad, winner of the 2012 Callum Mcdonald Award and the inaugural BBC Scotland Poet in Residence in 2015. She has performed and taught poetry in Greece, South Africa, Haiti, Montreal and around the UK. Her second pamphlet Do Not Alight Here Again was published in March 2015 by Stewed Rhubarb Press, and in August 2015, she wrote and performed her first solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe, as part of new spoken word collective SHIFT/. In 2016, she is CoastWord Writer In Residence, exploring ideas of freeing the voice, feminism and performance, in Dunbar, another small seaside town.
Jonathan Lamy is a multidisciplinary poet and performer from Montreal. He is also a poetry and performance art critic, currently postdoctoral fellow at Université Laval. He has published two collections of poetry at Editions du Noroit, as well as many articles about Quebecois and First Nations poetry. His practice as a performer combines participative reading, sound poetry, poetry-action and intervention in public spaces.
A note about where this poem came from
The coverage of the New Year attacks against women in Cologne and Stockholm; further reading about other incidents of mass sexual violence against women, for example, Tahir Square in 2013; the ‘corrective rapes’ of lesbians, particularly in South Africa; that these are not a phenomenon that happens only outside the UK and Northern Ireland (Dapper Laughs exists, for example); reading ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and exploring feminine archetypes around the world; my own feelings as a muscular woman who often feels more akin to a bear than a bird, regardless of what a lot of poetry tells me; the need to free my own voice, to yell and howl and scream against an upbringing that tells me this is uncouth, ugly, excessive; learning about Inuit throat singing, that it is traditionally a female practice, a game, and delighting in how ‘unfeminine’ and ‘ugly’ it sounds, and the power that comes from that; my own absolute terror of groups of men, particularly in the streets, of mob think and the violence, the mindlessness, the egging-on that can come from that, my own physical helplessness against those situations, however much I like to think of myself as strong, my need to scream, stomp and rage against that, and my desire to see women able to scream, stomp and rage along with me.
With thanks to Jonathan Lamy, whose vocal support, trust and love enabled this piece to be written.
Listen to the live version, performed by Rachel with throat singing support from Jonathan.
The First Blast to Awaken Women Degenerate
‘I am assured that God has revealed to some in this our age, that it is more than a monster in nature that a woman shall reign and have empire above man.
And therefore, I say, that of necessity it is that this monstiferous empire of women (which amongst all enormities that this day do abound upon the face of the whole earth, is most detestable and damnable) be openly revealed and plainly declared to the world, to the end that some may repent and be saved.’
(The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women – John Knox, 1558)
The trumpet sounds.
All the monkeys are grooming themselves bald
in the zoos
Women slither out from gutters and under streetlamps
down from bedsits, and from behind garden fences
Foil sail unfolding irresistible as empty crisp packets
from pub table women
Women who sink a bottle of red and rage
with wine lips women
Fury unleashed women
in stamping, stomping, sweating
hordes of women
ranks amassing women.
and bear women
and wolf hound women
blue whale women
and badger women
and bison women
and bone women
not quite bird women
not least the sparrow
and pelican women
Give me unnnatural women
Give me mobs of women
chow down on misery women
seismic cunt women
bloody pushy women
like a 2am army’s march
through the veins women
Give me ruling women
and yelling women
Give me unsilent unwatchful women
Give me monstrous women
on the pavements of
Tahrir Square women
Cape Town women
Before the second trumpet sounds.
Before the monkeys can groom themselves bare and repent
Before the streets can fall dark and silent and damned
Give me my monstruous regiment
Text copyright Rachel McCrum 2016.