As part of my Leverhulme Trust artist’s residency at the University of Kent and at Canterbury Christ Church University, I have devised a poetry project for women in their 60’s, exploring the impact on us of sexism and ageism.
I am writing poetry on issues relevant to me as an older woman and leading poetry workshops for a diverse group of women. Workshops have been, or will be, led for women in prison; women in a WI; women in a Zumba Gold class; daughters of Holocaust survivors; Second Wave feminists; women living in an almshouse; lesbians; women with learning disabilities; women with physical disabilities and women with mental health challenges.
Our poetry will –
- celebrate older women’s resilience and our contribution to social change;
- challenge the many ways we are made invisible;
- subvert society’s assumptions and prejudices about ‘early old age’ women;
- explore issues including the media representation of older women; sexuality, desire and desirability; the impact of the beautification industry on image and self-esteem; reproductive stories; domestic violence; and the way austerity disproportionally disadvantages older women.
The poetry we create will be published in two ways. Firstly, on poetry-decorated retro and designer clothes, bags and shoes, which will be exhibited in a ‘poetic clothing’ pop up shop. Secondly, through a short film, which will be uploaded to the Internet and submitted to women’s film festivals.
Here is an example of the poetry I am writing about being a woman in her 60’s –
I’m an old age, all age woman,
no way past my use-by date.
Walking in ancestral women’s footsteps,
I am an archive on legs,
the shifting self of myself,
me now and me in the traces
of all the selves I have been.
I’m a time traveller, alive to life,
I embody time, provide testimony,
me, I’m a radical, lyrical, womanist legacy.
Women’s blood memory speaks in me