All this week we’re marking this year’s International Women’s Day with a focus on the work of women in the arts in Wales, to coincide with this year’s call to “Embrace Equity”. We continue the week with Cerys-Leigh Phipps‘ review of Are You Judging Me Yet? Poetry and Everyday Sexism, the latest collection from award-winning poet Kim Moore, which delves into the relationship between poetry and sexism.
Following the success of her award winning 2021 publication All the Men I Never Married, Kim Moore returns with another beautifully composed collection of poetry and other works. Just in time for International Women’s Day, Are You Judging Me Yet?: Poetry and Everyday Sexism tackles the heavy issues of domestic violence and sexism that women still face within modern society. In conversation with her previous collection, Moore’s new, thought-provoking poetry offers a glimpse into her personal experience with these hard-hitting issues, while highlighting normalised acts of sexism that, all too often, seem to go under the radar within our society. Through her powerful writing, Moore opens the door to an impassioned debate about the modern world of gender politics.
This is Moore’s third publication with Seren Books and her writing is raw and emotional, yet there is a sense of empowerment that can be felt on every single page. Sharing her own personal experience with sexism, Moore exposes the dangers of normalising the sexist behaviour faced by women on a daily basis. From being heckled at her poetry readings, to men being unable to give compliments which aren’t based on her appearance, and even to conversations about sexual harassment and consent, Moore’s commitment to expressing these experiences is nothing short of inspiring. It is genuinely a joy to follow her vulnerability transform into irrefutable strength, as she uses her writing to speak openly to readers, of all genders, about the reality of the mistreatment of women throughout all aspects of modern society.
My personal favourite poem is placed in an early section of the book entitled “Not Looking Away: A Poetics of Attention”. This short, yet poignant, piece tells a story of sexual consent, as the narrator recalls her body whispering to her “I didn’t let you down” after physically fighting off the unwanted sexual advances of a man. The heart-breaking final lines of the piece serve as an uncomfortable reality check as the female body is foregrounded as a site for sexual violence, even in a world that sees itself as “advanced”.
As we are reminded in the introduction by the author herself, the experiences explored throughout the collection do not speak for all women, but are her own, unique experiences with sexist behaviour. Yet, in telling her own story, Moore calls out to a much wider audience. Whether you relate personally to her experiences, or are simply enlightened by them, it is undeniable that her powerful poetry has an impact on how we look at such behaviour.
Alongside these beautifully written pieces, Moore incorporates an adventurous and original structure to her collection, inviting each reader to undergo their own personal experience with her writing. Taking inspiration from classic Fantasy Adventure novels, in which readers are able to choose the order in which they read the story, Moore applies a similar structure to her own work. Directing readers to certain poems, essays and extracts depending on their personal stance and experiences with sexism, she establishes an intimate and interactive relationship with each one of her readers. At the beginning of the collection, Moore begins with three optional starting points, one each for those who identify either as male, female, or non-binary, and from that point readers are directed depending on what which topics they wish to explore. By establishing this more personal connection with her audience, Moore creatively tailors her collection to each reader, encouraging them to go on their own, individual journey with her work, in much the same way as everyone has their own individual experiences with everyday sexism.
As well as the interactive elements of the collection, it is important to note the inclusion of a variety of literary forms throughout the book. Although the main focus, both in the writing and storytelling is poetry and how Moore has used it in an attempt to expose and combat sexism, the collection also includes a variety of lyrical essays and extracts. These artistic choices only add to the narrative, with the changing structures adding a further immersive element to the collection.
With International Women’s day just around the corner, the publication of Moore’s inspiring collection could not have come at a more appropriate time. Although we live in a society which claims to provide women with more opportunities than ever for equality and advancement, there is still a palpable sense of vulnerability to sexism and violence, felt by women everywhere. A survey carried out by Women’s Aid in 2022 found that domestic violence and misogynistic behaviour is frequently still “tolerated” by the public. In a time in which these behaviours are not only being endured, but evidenced and documented widely in the news and across social media, Moore’s work becomes an even more vital tool in the work being done to challenge everyday sexism. Reading her work is not only a window into her own experiences, but may also act as a means of education, and that’s something we all need to see more of.
Are You Judging Me Yet? Poetry and Everyday Sexism is available from Seren Books from March 8th, 2023.
The findings from the Women’s Aid 2022 survey can be read here.