Back in October, just after #MeToo went viral, Vik Bennett got in touch with me to say that she'd noticed that I had used the hashtag on my status. She told me that she was involved with putting an anthology of poems together written by women about their experiences. Her idea was spread the word even further by making a video with her talented partner Adam, with music written by us inspired by the anthology. I was particularly keen to do this because although I've had nothing terrible happen to me, I have witnessed certain behaviours that I felt were inappropriate but didn't feel empowered to act against them. I was also aware of many friends having similar or worse experiences.
A couple of months went by and the the poems were being collected so Vik got in touch again to say that there would be a worldwide launch of the book: #MeToo: A women’s poetry anthology on International Women's Day, March 8th. She sent a digital copy of the poems and I started to read through them. I realised that there were more poets that I knew, apart from Vik, that had contributed to the anthology. This brought me closer to the writing. I wasn't able to read them all in one go, partly because they were very powerful and personal experiences and provoked an emotional response, and partly because I had an 8 month old baby who demanded attention every now and then!
Vik gave us a deadline (which is always useful) so I set aside an afternoon after re-reading the poems many times. I usually like write a song as soon as I can after reading the material, so I sat with a notebook and instruments and read some of the poems again. My immediate response was to write down my feelings and personal experiences and I wrote down some things that never made it into the song, for example a night in Moles, a nightclub in Bath.
Then I had some ideas for chords and melodies on the baritone ukulele and a structure started to form. I ended up going back to one of the first times I witnessed any form of harassment or sexual assault. I remember a girl who was always targeted as a victim of suggestive verbal jibes from our male peers. We must have been around thirteen and I have no idea if she felt bullied, enjoyed the attention or was terrified. I didn't know her that well as she was in a different class. I just remember the boys showing off that one of them had put his hand up her skirt and pinched or felt her bottom. I can't remember if anyone got into trouble but my feeling is that they probably weren't educated as to how that made her feel.
The song goes on in time to when I started to feel pressured by people to go further than I felt comfortable with. I also feel lucky that violence has played no part in my experiences but I'm aware of people, and a lot of the poetry portrays people that have.
I finished the song and showed it to Ben who had some musical ideas. One night he added some guitar and synth to the track and it became much darker and more atmospheric. We added some cello and Ben started to mix the track.
This morning, after it was delayed for technical reasons, we watched the film for the first time. I didn't know what to expect (although I have seen Adam's Minecraft work before) and I was really moved by it. I don't think I was expecting to see the words written - it was very powerful as some of these were my memories/experiences.
It's amazing to be asked to collaborate with such artists and to create something which is part of a much bigger story. I hope that it helps to spread the awareness and to raise money for Women's Aid.
You can purchase the song here: https://thebookshopband.bandcamp.com/track/what-we-now-know
“This book contains the poetry of necessity and truth, exploding into the light, where it goddam belongs. Please read these poems and then decide in what order you want to 1) cry 2) march 3) scream with relief and recognition 4) grab a sword-pen and write your own.” Amanda Palmer.
MORE ABOUT THE BOOK, COLLABORATION AND THE MUSIC VIDEO - written by Vik Bennet
#MeToo - A Women’s Poetry Anthology is due to release on International Women’s Day, 8th march 2018. Bringing together eighty poets from the UK and beyond, in a collection of over one hundred poems, this is a necessary, and challenging, anthology. Edited by Deborah Alma, and published by Fair Acre Press, the book is the direct result of the collective experiences shared on social media, as part of the #MeToo movement. Every poet within is adding their voice to that movement. It is courageous, and beautiful. As one of those women who have added my voice to this collection, I can say that is not an easy thing to do, and I wish there was no need for it, but I am proud to stand side by side with these women and say #MeToo.
"...Something was released and given a space within social media. It was easy to add our voice to the rising shout of #MeToo. We felt the sisterhood. Many women felt emboldened by this to share more difficult stories, more details; the lid has come off this box and now cannot be forced back on. I’m a poet, and an editor, and someone suggested we collect these stories somehow and it was obvious to collect them as poems. It was what I could do. I am very proud of this book, proud of the poets for sharing their stories and for putting their names to their words...These poems are painful, angry, often difficult to bear, but the result of these voices singing together is one that is beautiful, full of sisterhood, strength, and recovery…” (Deborah Alma, Editor)
During the difficult process of choosing which poems would sit within the anthology, it became obvious that there would always be more stories than there was space. In discussion with Deborah, I suggested that Wild Women Press could offer a platform for some of these poems, and so #UsTogether was born — an online space for these voices to be heard, alongside the one contained in the book. These can be found on Wild Women Press.
Adam and I are both interested in how VR and poetry can work together, and how this relationship can work to create an immersive and emotional experience that is beyond the page. As soon as I read the draft manuscript of the book, I knew I wanted to collaborate with Adam, Ben and Beth to create an extra dimension to its experience, and was thrilled when they agreed.
When Beth and Ben sent back the song that they had created in response to the book, I was so moved. It was perfect. Working with this song, we started by highlighting certain images and phrases that felt core to us, both within the song and from the visual and written inspiration of the anthology. Together, we sketched out ideas, and worked on how we wanted to present the film. Using these sketches, Adam began to piece together a VR immersive landscape. We created and filmed the video using VR, specifically the Vive HTC headset and controllers, and Google Tilt Brush software.
“It gives me a virtual space to draw and paint in, where I can look at the work from all angles and engage in a very immersive way. I have always enjoyed hand-drawn typography, and this was my chance to interpret the words of the song, giving them power, and also being sensitive to the use of imagery.” (Adam Clarke, Digital Artist)