We Will Not Be Silenced
Editors: Christine E. Ray, Kindra M. Austin, Candace Louise Daquin,
163 poems, essays and art, 326 pages
Price: $12.99 Print Format, $4.99 Kindle Version
Publisher: Indie Blu(e) Publishing
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018913952
To Order: email@example.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
The tone is set by Susan Conway’s essay, Bearer of the Sky. She chronicles the terror and long-term trauma of a girl abused by her father beginning at a young age. It is impossible for this reviewer to hold back tears. I use present tense to indicate my reaction as I return again and again to her words. Conway’s essay should be prefaced with, “What you are about to read may be disturbing.” The most telling line among many, “My body is MY BODY, you don’t get to hurt me anymore.” Indeed, this entire collection of poetry, prose and art is specifically designed to be disturbing, and rightfully so.
Poet William Wordsworth has written, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” The remarkable writings contained in We Will Not Be Silenced are the work of skilled poets who have taken the time to feel and think about their pain. As they take pen and journal in hand they write from the overflow of reflective thought translated into some of the most powerful poetry this reviewer has ever encountered.
Throughout the work compelling images and other poetic devices drew me in, kept me interested and brought forth the tears alluded to above. As you become absorbed in the pathos of these poems (and you will), look for a “little nest of sparrows,” in Rachel Finch’s The Innocence is Haunting; “little white go-go boots,” in S.L. Heaton’s poem by the same title; “an old sack of bones,” in Secrets, by Hanlie Robbertse. Keep turning the pages until you find the horror of a Back Alley, by Cynthia Bryant and “girls huddled close together like a rack of pool balls,” in Home Safe, by Lesléa Newman. I return to Conway’s “This is MY BODY, you don’t get to hurt me anymore.” So often within these poems, the victim is alone, without resources, with no one she can trust with the telling of her experience.
We Will Not Be Silenced is punctuated throughout with poems superimposed over pictures which speak every bit as loudly as the poems which accompany them. In Heaton’s The Morning After, a pretty girl is leaning against the window sill seated at her classroom desk. Terrible things had happened to her the night before, things that were not her fault. Even so, she is dealing with “judgmental eyes that watched a slut ride the bus to school the morning after.” This work of art moved me as did the picture of a little girl, not more than four or five, holding her freckled face with both hands in Jamie Lynn Martin’s Little Girls, “she does not want to be the object of your lust.” The volume, as a whole, is laced with the power of words in tandem with equally powerful works of art.
Titles in We Will Not Be Silenced stir adrenalin compelling readers to WANT to read every poem. Here is a sampling: The Innocence is Haunting, Not a Comma, Don’t Say a Word, Safety at Age Eleven, Thirteen, When I Say I’m Ticklish I mean I Am Scared of Men, My Body Remembers, Old Man Hands, The Quilt, I hear a Robin Sing, The Pros and Cons of Being this Heavily Medicated.
As I read through the entire anthology I noticed strong unifying themes: the victims share ongoing trauma, self-doubt, in many cases self-loathing and isolation. I’ve selected the poem below as representative. It needs no commentary.
When I Told
Cynthia L Bryant
When I told my mother
“Do you feel guilty?”
When I told my aunt
“I’m not surprised.”
When she told her husband
“I wish you hadn’t told me.”
When I told my uncle
“Gee that’s too bad, but that was a long time ago.”
When he told his wife
“Too bad something wasn’t said while he was living,
so he could have defended himself.”
When I told my cousin
“There was a rumor of it in our mothers’ family.”
When I told my husband
my father had sexually abused me throughout my childhood
He held me while I cried.
After reading this poem, your reviewer cried too.
Having grown up free of abuse and the toxic environment that envelops the courageous victims who step up and speak out in this incredibly well done anthology, I am visited by a fresh loathing for those who abuse power and change forever girls and women too vulnerable to fend for themselves. At the same time, I am encouraged by those who walk in light and hope within the community of the redeemed who declare, We Will Not Be Silenced.
I return to where I began with Susan Conway’s tone-setting essay,
“I have faith, that one day you will emerge into the clearing that is the knowledge that although your abusers tasked you with the charge of holding up the sky, the entire Universe now revolves around you. Blessed Survivors, may you lean into the healing hard, may you step into the magnificence that you are. Bearer of stars, and moons, and mystery; sacred, sacred, sacred you are.”