Stigma does not rhyme: 1st Web Poetry Open-Mic

by

We gathered to redefine

On May 21 2019,

Our experiences learnings and feelings, online

*Stigma does not rhyme, My Abortions are Fine*

We created a safe, listening space by introducing ourselves with our name, country as well as three words that inspire us in our stigma-busting work. There were participants from Peru, Ireland, Mexico, US, Kenya, Malta, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Thailand and together we strung these words together to write our first collective poem:

We took the poem “Poetry is not a Luxury” by Audre Lorde as our first inspiration:

“(Poetry) is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.”

Aditi shared that the Poetry Open-Mic was planned to delve deeper into the intimate and political nature as well as the strength that poetry as a cultural tool has in busting stigma. Paige also shared that poetry, and all art, helps us see what is not going right, the loopholes in our abortion experiences and work and helps us to move forward.

We then read some lines of Adrienne Rich’s poem “Going there and Being here”

“If you are trying to transform a brutalized society into one where people can live in dignity and hope, you begin with the empowering of the most powerless. You build from the ground up… Food, health, literacy, like free contraception and abortion, are basic feminist issues.”

And Lucille Clifton’s poem “Wishes for Sons” that has been circulating the internet recently with #YouKnowMe:

“I wish them cramps. I wish them a strange town, And the last tampon. I wish them no 7-11…Let them think they have accepted Arrogance in the universe Then bring them to gynaecologists Not unlike themselves.”

With this intentional building of a safe-space that included inspiring reflections from the larger poetic world, we opened up the mike to our very own inroads poets.

The Open Mic


Grace Wilentz, of the Abortion Rights Campaign in Ireland, started us of with a poem “Misoprostol Haiku Series” describing the importance of self-managed abortion and friendship. Grace told us that self-managed abortions were hotly contested during the organizing to repeal the 8th amendment and prefaced her poem by saying “self-managed abortion can be a desireable route to the best possible abortion experience” comparing a self-managed abortion to the poetry Audre Lorde talks about, poetry that allows us to understand and connect with our own experiences.

“They say those who count
are counted. Not girls who buy pills.
We are an unknown number.”

Dr. Tahira Bilal Tahir, of Peace Foundation in Pakistan, shared with us a poem in Urdu “Aurat (Woman)”. Tahira, who writes under the pen- name Namira writes a lot of poetry, stories and case-studies about common people and women’s rights, shared that had time not been a constraint, she wished to share many more lines with everyone.

“ Yes, Yes! I am a woman
O life! Do not underestimate me
It is because of me that you live
And so at my feet is heaven
And from me is the existence of the Universe”

Amrit Bhandary, from PSI Nepal, shared a poem “Not now a teddy” about the need for people to feel comfortable in their decision to have an abortion.

“We were two white doves
Melting together within our shades..
And one day the liners did not get red
Frowns, I got, everywhere I looked to
But I did…what I had to.”

Next to take the microphone was Bertha Prieto, who is part of Serena Morena in Peru, and her long verse poem in spanish “13 semanas (13 weeks)” was a very touching narrative describing the learnings one has while accompanying someone else through an abortion.

“ En el camino, pienso que Wendy es una mujer muy valiente
Las que hemos pasado por el abandono paterno mostramos una Resistencia apremiante frente a situaciones complicadas.
Sin darme cuenta, me siento orgullosa de ella.
Y de mí.”

Supecha Baotip, of the Tamtang Collective in Thailand, took the microphone and shared that her own abortion experience as well as the way religion dominates social thought inspired her to write this poem titled “Good Buddhist.” It was the first time Supecha wrote in English, and the poem was short and to the point!

“As a buddhist I don’t even exist.
So do you, and also the baby you think I killed.
We are just small particles which travel and changing in to different form.”

The poem that followed had an epic-like style, Mehboob Ali, from REACH organization in Pakistan, shared “You Can!”. The poem depicts the story of a courageous Muslim girl whose pregnancy has just emerged and she wants safe abortion. She asks others to ban the fallacy of “What others will think” from entering their mind.

“Stigmatizing and criminalizing abortion with tact!

How do you expect your prophesy to be only fact?

I was not born to bend before your choice of act!”

Last up on the microphone was Aditi Pinto, from India and part of the inroads Communications and Programs. She shared one of the poems titled “Ek, Do, Teen (One, Two Three)”  scribbled in her diary that talks of breaking #MultipleAbortionStigma.

“My octopus had burst, the ocean was inside me

The sun and my sweat, and I tried

And inside I knew, the skies would turn blue

as I saw in me a fighter, anew

guerilla, marine creature like so many

Swimming the seas, against the tide.”

So far, the *Chat Box* was bustling with comments, sighs, tears, cheers, snaps, and claps and we ended with appreciations, comments and feedback from the listeners ! Omodele from Nigeria told us she had learned the importance of listening especially when it comes to such a silenced experience of abortion, Catherine Osita from Kenya said that such poetry should inundate Social Media Worlds, Athira from India said that the poetry was lovely and Grace from Malta declared she would now begin to write poetry.

The inroads communications team does plan on compiling all of the poems shared into a zine or a short inroads anthology of stigma-busting poetry! So do keep a look-out for more such arts sharing spaces and events!