Clever Girl “Verbs that Move Mountains”, edited by Claire Trévien, reviewed by Jessica Mookherjee

verbs that move mountains 2

Clever Girl: A Review of Verbs That Move Mountains: Essays and Interviews on Spoken word cultures around the world. Edited by Claire Trevien.


Jessica Mookherjee; Poet, “Swell” (2016, Telltale Press), “JoyRide” (2017 Black Light Engine Room Press) “Flood” (2018 Cultured Llama). Highly Commended for Best Single Poem Forward Prize 2017.

Poetry and Art

I first heard of Claire Trevien on radio four, driving home from work. She was reading from her 2014 collection “The Shipwrecked House” and I recall a little bit of my life changing. The haunting quality of the way she connected with me reminded me of what I had wanted to do as a young performance poet in my 20’s, fresh out of media school. I wanted to bring multi media poetic beauty to performance and make poetry as popular as rock music. Well, I didn’t – I was too scared, and what I heard was was a poet doing just that. She inspired me to perform again – twenty five years after my first attempts.

Trevien’s (ed) “Verbs That Move Mountains” follows her interest in the conversation of the democratisation of art, the blurred lines between art and culture, the establishment, the traditional ‘ivory tower’ holders of the poetic cannon in academia and their relationship to the sawdust and spit of slam poetry / spoken word performance, and ‘the cult of the noble amateur’.

Controversy and Pop Culture

This book is bold and thrusts its shoulders assertively into the Watts / McNish ‘controversy’, which for the blissfully unaware – is the latest media peak into poetry’s mysterious world of spats; this time an age old debate between high art and low culture. Watts, a poet, declared that poets like Tempest and McNish, who use YouTube and Instagram, are populist panderers and mark a kind of ‘dumbing down’ of poetry. McNish, I think, blew a raspberry in response.

“Verbs that Move Mountains” is a fascinating collection of essays that provides an exploration and addition to the growing body of work on the phenomenon of poetry as oral and performative tradition as well as discussing the urgency of this democratisation as it exists in a fast changing, globalised and yet increasingly tribalised context.

Clever Girl

I once had a surprisingly upsetting argument with a friend when I said there was no way Citizen Kane was in the same category of art as Jurassic Park. She really let me have it. Had I missed the devastatingly Shakespearian death scene – where Muldoon says “clever girl’ thus showing that the velociraptor is the scientists’ equal, and then (spoiler alert) the clever girl rips his head off?  Perhaps I had missed it. She certainly ripped my head off.

Pleasingly for me, the book’s journey begins in India. Scherezade Siobhan (check out her digital work called “Bone Tongue”) had me at Krishna. She eloquently writes about the many forms of Indian poetry, from Kavya to Ghazal. In fact, her chapter reminds me of the Hindu parable of the beggar and the Brahmin. The Beggar tends the infant Krishna, sings to him with devotion. His gruff tones offend the classically trained Brahmin singer – who sends the beggar off for ‘offending God’ with dreadful singing. The Brahmin sings in technical perfection yet wakes young Krishna – who, upset and angry, wants his beggar back – because in the beggar’s voice was love and desire to connect with god, all the god hears in the Brahmin is the desire to sound clever and precise – which to the god – sounds horrible.

Democracy of Voices

Siobhan is nuanced in the chapter, she rightly says, that when the poet is dead and can no longer sing to us, we need the words to hold us. The book and page holds the echo of a poets perfomative presence. She states boldly that the dichotomy of page vs stage is false. There is something about the multilingual nature of India that enables the richness of the oral tradition to explode. She describes the pluralistic voices, the small regional dialects and the strength of the classical poetic tradition. The chapter hints at what the whole volume goes on to explore in different aspects and layers – that of the new democratisation of poetry. The relationship between the grass roots and the literary can appear to be threatening and revolutionary before being co-opted onto structured curriculum in schools and colleges. Who decides which poets will live on in the pages of the future? Will, in 200 years, Scotland celebrate Don Patterson night?

This democratisation rests the canon away from old white men and gives voice to the traumatised, the vulnerable, women, those who say the unsayable. She writes that the intent of this new poetic democracy is to engage, empower and to connect.

Space for Healing

Sharon Moreham and Alice. S. Yousef both have chapters on the consequences of catastrophe in building community and voice. The question of how to re-build a people’s spirit where the poem becomes a voice of ‘demanding to be born’ and having the right to exist.

Moreham describes the use of poetry groups in the aftermath of an earthquake in New Zealand and Yousef recounts the Palestinian spoken word experience that moves from silence, through trauma of erasure into rage. Both chapters speak of the power of narration and storytelling as healing, showing the art of being visible and the support offered in growing the voice.

Emma Lee’s chapter is about creating space for healing. She underlines both Moreham and Yousef in describing the dual needs of the trauma survivor for acknowledgement and validation. Much has already been written on poetry as witness, here Lee writes about the performance space as witness to the poet’s trauma and enabling healing to occur. The ability of the condensation of the poetic form to be an organising principle of the chaos and shame of trauma, enables healing to happen. This has been documented by singers and musicians. Lee describes how in the performance space the poet can also be a ‘person’ with a platform to connect, whereas the printed page and the world of publishing can be viewed by many who lack confidence, as elitist and sterile in comparison.

Class and Community

Artist, Grayson Perry says we drink in our aesthetic differences with our mother’s milk, inferring that class and taste are inexorably linked. Perry talks about the working class needing community more then middle classes – who are more concerned with individuality and originality, and rules and breaking rules. I found it fascinating to apply these notions to Trevien’s collection of essays. The creation of a poetry scene in the Midlands where events such as Word! and Shindig are community building and supportive, where applause and validation are necessary steps to empowerment also linked to McCrum’s chapter about Glasgow and Edinburgh. She declares that who has access to community is a political question, for in performance poetry there is opportunity to interact with the promoters and punters, there is space for conversation without the mystery of why you have not made it onto the pages of PN Review.

Buchannan’s chapter about the Shropshire poetry scene which is stanza and festival focused, has big poetry names reading at Wenlock – quite a middle class affair, right through to Debra Alma, the Emergency Poet – who gives one to one performances, the ‘nurse of verse’.

Voices Loud and Quiet

The politics of democratisation are immense – and “Verbs that Move Mountains” is a worthy contribution to this conversation. The book asks important questions about poetry and performance. The Chapter by Batineh on Saudi Arabia, Iran and Jordon remind us not to take this democratisation and political space for granted. The ability to have voice and to speak against authority is necessary for art to remain alive – and this chapter describes how sometimes this is impossible in the native soil and the poet must find exiled spaces, on line and censorship as the battlegrounds, she talks about ‘armed voices’.

It is the exuberance of the voice desiring to be heard that is the overriding theme of the collection of essays. The freedom of voice is the full expression of the poetic experience, and Trevien explores this with Martin Raqel. Poetry is about communication at it’s heart and there is a beautiful point made in the book that it is when a poem is performed and heard, life is blown into the spirit of the page.

The book asks important questions about art. Many of the chapters deal with the aspect of giving confidence to the previously unheard, be they women who have suffered years of marital oppression, men who feel crushed by the forces of capitalism or a whole group of people who are marginalised and ‘othered’. The book asks what are the rules within this ‘lawlessness’ and revolt against academic authority? Is there a hierarchy that is unspoken, will those that ‘do well’ at performance events leave the community and get ‘published’ or move to paid gigs and rock star status and then, where does this leave the community? Will the local events have to constantly re-invent itself when the ‘local leaders’ tire of running them? This is interestingly observed in the chapter on the history and creation of a spoken word scene in Singapore.

Being Authentic and Selling Out

This leads to the questions of ethics and who are your community of peers? How can the grass roots survive if there is no one to continue to support it? The ethics of truth are explored, after connecting with an audience will they tolerate an appropriation of another’s identity? Have you the right to to perform poems about the experience of being black – If you are not black? It certainly doesn’t bother actors or novelists, but there appears to be unwritten rules of engagement in poetry. There is an interesting observation in the book that poetry designed to ‘win’ slams, such as the overblown confessional, the overwrought sentimental and comedic poems are treated with suspicion by audiences after a while. The nature of selling poetry and the sell out- where the poet stops being authentic is also discussed.

Craft Work

The book also raises questions of craft and excellence in performance. Many of the – arguably – more experienced poets talk about the ‘art’ – how silence, quietness, staging and music can be used to good effect, it doesn’t all have to be spit and vitriol and shouting about terrible childhoods. The use of theatrical craft can elevate the text, a good text is performable and brought to life by the poet if they know how to connect with the audience. Ultimately the book rests on the premise that spoken word and performance is ‘live literature’. This is how I felt when I heard Claire Trevien’s work for the first time, how I responded to Kate Tempest, how I felt about Tommy Sissons aged just 17 when I first saw him perform,  how I thought he was the next Shakespeare, and of course Shakespeare himself, who comes alive – from the past – when he is performed. There is a rock star nod at the end of the book, and I’m glad of it. Most of us grew up listening to Mark E Smith, Morrissey, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Bob Marley just as much as Hughes, Plath and Heaney, and often more then Shelley, Yeats and Blake.

The Conversation

This book has a wealth of information for poets, promoters, publishers, sociologists and anthropologists. It is part of the conversation that moves poetry forward as one of the most democratic participant-led art forms of the 21st Century. Buy and read this book and the works of the poets who feature in it. Also – do not be afraid to get on stage and read your poem– never mind the bollocks, get on YouTube, your local word night and push your voice out.

March 2018.


To those who say, Now he is free, by Oonah V Joslin

(For Stephen Hawking)
crippled by fear
tied to grief
stuck in rut
angry at the world
needy for fame but indolent
rich enough but not content
hungry for power
insatiable in appetite
preoccupied by trivialities
wrapped in self and selfies
can never be free.
There was no pity about his life.
He lived inside his mind.
He was never bound.

Poetry Waking, by David Chorlton

Its early: four o’clock. Too dark
for logic. The alphabet is scattered
across the floor
and the day’s arguments
have yet to begin, but the mind
is already sorting what matters
from what does not.
……………………………Loose ends
are connecting. A train
arrives from a long ago year;
a bird seen far from its range
becomes a portent of extinction;
Russia has returned to its iron
roots; all the teacups
in the kitchen fill
…………………………..with storms
and every toy gun
kills in dreams. Soon, the televisions
will wake up and start to shout
but this is poetry’s time
to purr in a world of lions.


David Chorlton was born in Austria, grew up in Manchester, England, and lived for several years in Vienna before moving to Phoenix in 1978. Arizona’s landscapes and wildlife have become increasingly important to him and a significant part of his poetry. Meanwhile, he retains an appetite for reading Eugenio Montale, W. S. Merwin, Tomas Tranströmer and many other, often less celebrated, poets.

The madman with a gun, by Karen Middleton

More guns,

less school runs,

more rest in peaces,

more kids shot to pieces,

more sorry to hears,

more population decreasing.

Less cease firing,

more tears shed,

more dead,

more body bags,

in makeshift mortuaries,

school halls,

and playgrounds,

used for

praying not paying In.

Leading onto

empty corridors,

Because a madman thought he was being ignored?


‘Of course, our thoughts are with the families,

But what do you expect people?

Another shooting,

equals more guns needed here,

We’ve reached the conclusion,

theres only one solution,

Teachers should be reaching for guns,

And teaching kids to do the same,

Great guns for our gun laws,

we don’t have enough we should have more,

He was Just another mad man with a gun.’


‘You politicians have got it wrong.

Officials singing the same old song,

Our nation is segregated, and divided

although the decision already been decided.

Teachers have shown pupils a hard lesson to learn,

come to school and you might not return.’


‘The voice of the people has spoken,

ban guns? You’re joking,

because some mad man wanted to settle scores,

thought he’d be ignored.

We need more. because,

just in case,

for the day might come,

that we need them.

Oh wait,

I mean when.

Now you’ve metal detectors

to protect you,

from another mad man

scum should he come into your school someday’


‘Anyway, ban guns, way!

I’ve seen so many of my friends paying,

In our land of the free.

I don’t wanna go to my place of learning,

when I don’t know if I will be returning.’


‘They should have been protected,

yes, but it’s your teachers job is to protect them.

yet they didn’t give the shooter a taste of his own medicine!

The problems were because another madman didn’t understand,

and had nothing to do with what he had in his hand,

anyway, it should be in the curriculum,

that teachers and kids should carry a gun with them’


‘Tell that to the parents of the kids,

that where sitting,

at their desk just, a minute ago,

and now are lying on the floor,

Explain how when they were preparing for the school run,

when they packed their kids a snack pack.

they should have packed them a gun.’


‘It had everything to do with him,

and nothing to do with me.

He wasn’t right in the head you see,

He needed a check-up from the neck up,

he was protected by the second amendment.

but then so where you,

but you chose to not use it.

You could, you know,

you have no excuses.

Just put it down to experience

and next time you know what to do.’

The next time the madman with a gun is coming for you.

It’s not a time, by Michael Peck

it’s not a time
of world adventure
today those who rule
want censure, restriction
white knuckled control
advertised under the
name of protection
protection from what?
Those others
who don’t think the same
as those whose wants of control
extend beyond their boundaries
no, it’s not a new ideology
it’s just dressed in new polyester uniforms instead of
cotton, wool
the red buttons of destruction
are bigger
the hands who hover above
their power
are puffy, not calloused hands
of privilege
that have never known
the angry knot of hunger

Them, by Cath Campbell

There is a man on line
who says they are a hardy people.

They are nomads, used to deserts.
They know how to survive,
that not everywhere is scarred by war.
He has been there, and he knows.

Everyone lives near the mountains,
can magic water from the sands.
Everyone can ride a camel, or a horse.
They are a hardy people, and they will learn.

Tell that to the kid standing wide eyed,
watching the murder missiles fall,
straight as heart seeking arrows,
shining, like nothing he’s ever seen before.

LaToya Marries An Impoverished Marxist, by Clara B. Jones

for Robert Wayne Williams

He tried to honor Gramsci’s prison notebooks.
But, ‘Toya required means. A comrade fighting
worldwide oppression married to a princess.
Thesbian Ché chortling for cameras, never
exposing flaws, never so beautiful as in
death, revealing tiny pimples—an otherwise
unworldly face. “Revolution” a meme, violent

insurrection modeled by Lenin, the oppressed
led by a nobleman defrocked, clothed by
tsunamis of Red Tides and by a red flag rough
as workers’ palms, labeled “amoral” by well-fed
republicans, stable hierarchies prevailing,
formed by guilds and nation-states avowing
private ownership. A husband whose theories might

have earned praise, competing with Jackson’s Lenin
Prize, but privileging private domains over service,
showing ingratitude to his Frankfurt School.
Habermas lies disappointed but in wait. It is neither
confirmed nor denied that the husband was once a
belligerent entity, acting on Marx’s behalf, armed
with munitions of scholarship, writing documents as

deputed as manifestos, not binding as signed treaties
but uncorrupted as Capital or Notebooks, extolling
revolution but not trained to shoot a gun. FARC
is the new Politburo, Cano the new Che, Chavez the
new Lincoln, Chavez the new Churchill, Chavez the
new Fanon, Mono Jojoy the new Sacha. Hermeneutics
of sustainable politics coerced by agrarian reformers

and anti-imperialists, avatars in entrepreneurial games
that Robert’s defection empowers. Don’t fall in love
with your work. ‘Toya might have said, Don’t fall
in love. Instead her husband succumbed to her ways,
a negress with genteel ambitions, philistine and
beautiful, whose petulance the husband made a
virtue. Still, he labors for a different social contract.


Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She writes about identity, culture, & society and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. She is author of three chapbooks and one volume, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

Burdened, by Roberta Monokroussos

when your conscience is laden with guilt
as most of our consciences must be
do we get active politically
do we revise our budgets wisely
do we look at the people and say, “hello
how are you today”? before we go
before we go on our merry way–
off to our errands–not thinking how
we can make amends
do we do this everyday as we take note
of all those who die by famine and draught
of all those who died by genocide
and all the blood needlessly spilt
o our consciences are burdened–no doubt
by skeletons not yet dead and children’s eyes
seeming to pop out of their head
pity all our consciences so burdened with guilt

Blatant by Robert Garnham

This is who I am.
The only trick that nature pulled
Was to instil its hate in you.
I’m still your son.
There were childhood days of sun
But this isn’t playtime,
It’s very real.
If I could change the way I feel
Just to please you, I would.
I haven’t strayed.
The path is as obvious as it always was.
I will not sully your house
Or your name.
The touch I crave is not alien, nor supernatural,
But human.
I’m not the first to feel this way,
Even if I am your only.
Why would you want me
To be lonely?
This is who I’ve always been.
There was no switch,
I didn’t press a button
Marked with unwitting defiance,
I was not inspired by soap opera shenanigans,
Nor whims, nor fashion statement,
The suburbs will not catch fire
Because I have transgressed whatever manly
Aspirations are normally thrust on the first born,
I’ve never sought undue attention
And this is not the start of it.
You know me.
And you know me, really.
You always did, only you preferred
It would never be addressed,
You preferred an alternative narrative,
It hardly makes a difference.
I can only think that you hoped
I was the only one who didn’t know.
This is who I always will be.
Your comfort, your solace, your tutelage,
Your charity, your benevolence, your humour,
Your decency, your honour, your respect
Live in still in me and will do always
That I should exist in each moment
Wrapped up in the man that you created,
Presented to the world
With pride and with love, still, your son.
This is who I am.
And while I cannot understand,
I can certainly look you in the eye
With absolute truth.
The only trick that nature pulled
Was to instil its hate in you.
Robert Garnham is a comedy spoken word artist from Devon. Although light in tone, his work deals with LGBT issues and social representation and has an undercurrent of seriousness. His first collection was published in 2016 by Burning Eye Books, and he was long listed for the Saboteur Awards in the category Spoken Word Artist of the Year. He has narrated and appeared in a short film, ‘Professor in the Bathroom’. Robert provides workshops for adults and sixth form students in comedy poetry, and has been Poet in Residence at the Artizan Gallery in Torquay, and on the LGBT radio magazine show ‘Listen Out’ in Exeter.

Brokering Peace, by Ananya S Guha

Syria they have used
you as a battle field
for a long time
your body is a soldier ‘s
your skin pocked with infinite
marks of hurt before death
scarred with wounds
of women and children
where is your history
your soulful people
are they in the blood
of those fields?
where are those fiesty
signs, love or music
where are those who have
let this hell loose on your
bosom, where do they sit
or are they swathed in your blood
your coffins?
whose conscience
whose voice speaks in those
sabre rattles, in those booms
of artillery, who now will mediate
or broker peace
among mangled eyes, nose, face, ears?

War, not school, by Sara Siddiqui Chansarker


I have changed

my schedule

to drop him off.

I fill my nostrils

with the smell of

aftershave he’s started dabbing,

hair cream he’s started applying.

I fill my palms

with the girth

of his solid arm

as I squeeze him goodbye.

I fill my eyes

with his tall frame

becoming small towards the brick building.

And I press with my fingers into the hippocampus,

the color of his T-shirt,

the leather patch on his jeans,

and the logo on his tennis shoes.


In case.



I feel as if

I’m seeing off my son to war,

not another day at school.

That Mother, by Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar

Do not place in her lap−

the irredeemably stained book bag,

the unbitten golden crisp apple,

the sticky wads of molten Wrigley’s,

the half-written Renaissance essay,

the earmarked and penciled-in Odyssey,

the infinite Java loops screaming ‘Hello world! ’,

the unanalyzed data of Simple Harmonic Motion,

the patriotic tunes stuck inside the trumpet,

the Vainglory demanding the next move on the IPhone,

the plastic ID displaying the year of graduation

the deluge of thoughts and prayers of effect unseen.


Do not send to her contents of the locker−

She is a mother. That mother.


Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American. She was born in a middle-class family in India and will forever be indebted to her parents for educating her beyond their means. Her work has appeared in print and online. She is also Pushcart nominee for 2017.

Let him Have it, by Andy N

So they let Derek have
The full bloody rope
Until firstly his hands
Stopped shaking
In the silence
then his legs
and only walked away
when Justice was served
leaving his body
blindfold in the shade.
Let him have it, Chris
could be heard
as the noose tightened
as the memory of that shot
bounced across the sky
like pinballs
that killed a young Constable.
Let him have it, Chris
could heard in the memory
of their over polished shoes
walking away into the distance
with Parliament refusing
to talk about it any further
until after he was hung,
and Justice was served
leaving his body dangling
never aiding his innocence
instead closing their eyes
offering a frightened soon,
Never soon enough.
Never soon enough
until after he was hung.

Ode to the Spirit of Righteousness, by Martin Stannard

after Wen Tianxiang (1236-1283)


I am incarcerated in the North Court in a mud cell.
I have time to think about how we are often overwhelmed
And rendered speechless by the sun and the stars.
By the rivers and mountains. By all of that.
I can see none of it out of my cell’s tiny window
But I remain steadfast in this solitude.
As Mencius said, “I try to maintain the nobility of my spirit.”

Righteousness takes many forms.
People call it by different names: honour and fearlessness
Are two of the names people call it by.
I care little for names or labels; it is the spirit that matters.
In times of tranquillity it is not tested.
In times of despair it is tested to its limits.

History is not carved into stone but you think it is.
I have shed blood when I had to.
Wrongdoing must always be denounced.
The benevolent tyrant has been endured
As have the tortures of the enemy.
We have repelled the barbarians coming across the river.
We have inadvertently made gods and ghosts weep.
We have tried to be purer than snow and ice.
What is permeated by the spirit of righteousness will be revered for ever.

To be righteous is majestic and without border.
It is to be one with everything,
To be the sun and the moon for all time.
Death and life are only words.
To be the Earth is to be sustained by this spirit.
To be the Heavens is to be supported by this spirit.
To be anything worthwhile is to be dependent upon this spirit.
There are nine types of bad luck
(I am unable to list them all here (lack of space)).
And any one of them may be stumbled upon unexpectedly –
But that’s no excuse not to do one’s best.


I wore a cheap beribboned hat and rags
When the carter delivered me, his sad cargo, to these northern wastes.
The cauldron in the kitchen contains the sweetest syrup
But it is not for me. We cannot always have what we want
Or find what we are looking for.
This dark room is silent with ghost fires.
Even a spring garden can be depressing under dark skies.
Twilight is melancholy.
The thoroughbred and the phoenix eat from the same trough
As the fowl and cattle. So do I. 

The morning is muffled into silence by fog.
A healthy man senses the approach of illness.
Some say to avoid the heat,
Some counsel to avoid the cold.
Some say the world is full of what to avoid.
Some say sorrow and sadness are what you live.
My heart is sad but at peace. Nobility of spirit.
When I am dead I will be thrown into the ditch and forgotten.
It doesn’t matter. There can be no more trickery.
I will not listen when you tell me the blue sky has an end.
A wise man is necessarily distant
Because he belongs to the past.
If you read this please bear in mind
I didn’t go through everything for nothing.

IRAQ: DOHUK: YAZIDI, by Jude Cowan Montague

Children who fight still have to learn
when they return from Daesh.

Crayons, drawings of tanks, flags and guns
on white paper, grab pink and brown and draw car bombs.
Yeah, give me, shouting. Polite voices of children,
playing nicely drawing purple, blue legs,
attached to the square torso, black hair and beards,
I don’t know – family or fighters, or what?
Psychotherapist Qassim show us, show us.

Shaking and jumping, outside,
when you get older, girls grow white dresses
and gold coins that bang on their headdresses,
In a playground cluster giggling, with care
they adjust the younger boy’s red and white scarf,
maybe saying, ‘he is so cute.’

Sitting in class, drawn in eyebrows,
eyes down at the paper, thinking and listening
to the teacher’s shouting, your green eyes see –
– what do they see? – what do I see?
Did the camera operator choose you
for the close up, smitten by those sea-eyes?

Yemen Open House, by Jude Cowan Montague

Bakeel heard the rocket inside the house,
last night.

Today is the day of carnage.

Houses have been opened by bombs
A blasted tree leans on the edge of the house
sprouting branches, steel rods,
the reinforcing concrete prods the azure sky, aimless.

Poor old walls, proud of your white diamonds.
Even now they look good. For now,
everyone’s moving, carrying mattresses,
but this is only temporary.

There were no Houthis here.
Just women, just children. Bakeel will tell you.

We will be back because otherwise
others take what’s ours from under this beautiful blue,
our land, we have to return,
we will rebuild our own house right here
or they’ll make us pay.
They always make you pay.
You have to fight to keep land.
The preciousness of soil.
Even this rubble is full of our souls.
This is our home, know
the fattest bombs won’t take it.

Ha! Giving cheeky grin to the camera,
I saw a cute boy behind the spokesman

Pruning (They Call it FGM), by Marvel Chukwudi Pephel

Papa looks at his girl and says:
“You are a girl, you are delicate,
You are a flower and must be taken care of.”
So he sanctions her pruning:
Cut! Cut!! Cut!!!
Organic fluid drips in painful drops,
The joy of a backward-looking tradition.
On the floor she lays, counting stars at noon.
And then, at sunset,
The flower feels the sun retiring underneath her.
And the flower is abandoned;
Abandoned to take care of herself.



Marvel Chukwudi Pephel is a prolific Nigerian writer who writes poems, short stories and other things besides. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New African Poets 2016 Anthology, Jellyfish Whispers, High Coupe, Praxis Magazine for Arts and Literature, The Avocet, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Pyrokinection, The Kalahari Review, African Writer, The Naked Convos, PIN Quarterly Journal, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, amongst others. He was shortlisted for the 2016 Quality Poets Competition. He is currently a two-time winner of the Creative Writing Ink Competition (Ireland).