By Farzana Hakim
Hear My Voice Workshop Showcase
Hi all, it’s Farzana, your host for a most special edition of Thursday Connectors. It’s March and Women’s Empowerment and Women’s History Month are being celebrated around the world. We also had International Women’s Day last week and soon it will be Mother’s Day in the UK too. A busy month for us womenfolk!
I’ve been busy running my ‘Hear My Voice’ creative writing workshops for women, in which I’ve been encouraging women from all walks of life to come and share their stories and discuss themes that have, and will, always affect us, be it in a positive or a negative way. With two out of ten workshops held, I’ve already heard some wonderful accounts and stories from the attendees. We’ve had both laughter and tears and we’ve been debating and opening up about things that we, as women, hardly ever get to talk about. My workshops are all about us and I love it that women can come forward and share their stories with me. I’m equally chuffed that some have already found their voice and are willing to share their writing with us on my Thursday Connectors page. This is empowerment!
This month, it’s so not about celebrations and fancy corporate events and industry shouting out ‘Women Power’. No, this month is about listening and finding ways to deal with our grievances and struggles within the societies we are very much a part of.
Today, I’m going to be empowering the women who come to my workshop by sharing their voices, in the form of the creative writing they have produced, using a few words as prompts and inspiration.
First up is a group poem. So, let’s connect with the ‘Hear My Voice’ 2022 class.
Her story was in the sixties, in a northern mining town.
She was fifteen, unmarried and pregnant.
She was brave and fought to keep her child.
She was Kathleen.
Her story begins with a mother and father
Who stayed loyal to each other,
And to them – her and her siblings.
She is Shahema.
Her story is in which she writes poetry
Her son is her number one editor. He reads and critics
And suggests she use “grammarly.”
She is Marie, the emotional poet.
Her story was never funny because despite her smiles and wrinkles caused by laughter,
Her eyes unmasked all
And revealed to the world the sorrows she hid.
She was Farzana
Her story began with band-aids on her knees,
Tears on quivering petals,
A kind snake slithering amongst vines and a baby cheetah on its back.
She was Arabella.
Her story is that there is light at the end of the tunnel
And that she doesn’t continue the world
Through rose-tinted spectacles.
She is Parv.
Her story; refugee, homeless, nowhere to live, nobody left, family dead
No money, no passport, no identity
She does not exist officially, please help
She is “nameless.”
(c)’ Hear My Voice’ 2022
How powerful is this! Please also go back and read last year’s version of the poem I wrote with the class of 2021. This can be found here: https://pentoprint.org/thursday-connectors-womens-voices-stories-pt1/
Next, is a showcase of writing which was also produced during my recent workshops. I am seriously enjoying delivering these sessions and inspiring such beautiful pieces of creativity.
She is a woman
Trapped in loneliness.
Nobody lives with her.
She sees no one
Except the delivery people
Who bring her groceries,
And the postie. She is disabled
She tries to go on the
Internet to get friendship
Where she does find
Joy. But things turn sour
When a conman tries
To fleece her of her
Life savings having
Promised to help her
With her pension pot. The moral is beware
Strangers offering help
Who may be dangerous.
(c) Rosemary Cantwell, 2022
Hope Eternal Prayers
Long ago passing
Where are all my sunflowers
My friends long ago
I count them all my blessings
So long ago, long ago
The lemon cornfields
Seashore clear blue sky above
Wind in my hair blows
My mind and I see clearly
Now all souls live in beauty
Mariya my name
Madonna of the rockpools
Birth of hope and love
Dewdrop pearl earrings sea mists
Eternal family friendships.
(Rosemary’s poem is dedicated to Peter Paul And Mary, whose song, Where Have All The Flowers Gone, inspired her.)
(c) Rosemary Cantwell, 2022
The trail begins with simple grace,
Jumanji Woman stands in awe.
She doesn’t know the pitfalls she’ll face,
Only what came before.
The trials and challenges that come her way,
Are like her mother’s strife.
And her mother’s mother who led the way,
So, she could live her life.
(c) Jo Nolan, 2022
Also inspired by the session at my workshop, Jo sent in this drawing she made to go with her piece, Jumanji Woman, and I absolutely love it!
An Old Woman’s Story
The old woman’s story ended in loneliness. She wrote her final letter to someone unknown. The spidery writing was barely legible, written by a shaking hand.
I am sending you word to say I am alone now. Surrounded by strangers and forgetting the days. I will travel to you soon.
It was never posted. The intended recipient never found. Instead, it remains in a heart-shaped box on her granddaughter’s dresser.
(c) Jo Nolan, 2022
Laughter In The Face Of Pain
My pain, it was joyous to you.
Not sure what you hoped to gain
from my pain, but I knew I grew
in the wrong way, because of you.
I closed off my feelings with walls
and I didn’t feel at all till the pent-
up pain came out as a flood, the walls
finally broken and as a woman bent
on feeling, I became sentimental.
(c) Shahema Tafader, 2022
When women speak up
Their stories are mine. Pure joy:
I am not alone.
(c) Shahema Tafader, 2022
They thought they knew me well
Family members, partner, haters
They thought they had me all figured out
She is always smiling
She is very kind
She is too caring
She is very understanding
She wouldn’t hurt a fly
They all took me for granted
They took me as their punch bag
Sure, I would never retaliate
What they didn’t know was
I did my own observing
And knew exactly how to deal with each
I was divorced and left to fend for myself
They all realised then
How strong I was underneath all that sweetness
How I could cope without crying or begging for help
How fast I could move on and not care what anybody thought.
(c) Marie Kenfak, 2022
What a wonderful showcase of creative writing! Thank you to all the ladies who have attended my workshops. I hope you’ll continue to be inspired and motivated to write more of your own stories. I love that Pen to Print has allowed me to use this platform to empower you like this. Well done! I look forward to hearing and creating more stories in the coming weeks.
I’d now like to share this wonderful artwork created by TAK Erzinger, so fitting for my colourful page today.
Finally, I’d like to connect with Jo Renton, who has rekindled her love for writing after many years of not writing anything at all. I just had to include her story here and give her a real confidence boost, as it definitely deserves a place in this tribute page to Women’s History Month.
Hi, Jo. Let’s connect:
Romance At ‘The Laurels’
Bertie sat staring into space from his plastic-covered armchair. Everything was a bit of as blur, as his spectacles were still in his pocket, along with his hankie and a used raffle ticket. He had won a prize at the raffle the previous evening; unfortunately, not the bottle of hair restorer he’d set his heart on. Instead, he’d won a box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray, which he didn’t much care for himself, so he’d given them to Enid.
He fumbled around in his jacket pocket and eventually found his glasses. He was then able to look around the room properly. He spied Enid over the other side, happily munching her chocolates and reading her book. She looked up at him and smiled.
She’d not been in ‘The Laurels’ for long, and Bertie was beginning to enjoy showing her around and introducing her to the others. He decided to ask if she could come and sit on his table for meals, instead of the nauseating Albert, who was forever taking out his false teeth and dropping food down his front.
With a spring in his step, as much as his bad knee would allow, he made his way over to her. “Enjoying your chocolates, Enid?”
“Mmm. I didn’t eat much breakfast. Didn’t feel hungry then. These are really nice.” She held the half-empty box out to him. “Have one.”
“Don’t mind if I do!” Was Bertie’s polite repsonse.”Thank you.”
At that point, he’d have loved to have followed up with the friendly suggestion they should perhaps both have a little walk outside in the grounds. The sun was shining for once, and it was turning out to be a very pleasant spring day. Somehow, though, he couldn’t manage to overcome his natural reticence and, instead, just mumbled, “See you later then.” And left to go for a walk by himself.
After Bertie left, Enid’s heart was a little more fluttery than her pacemaker usually allowed. To regain her composure, she decided it would do her good to sit in the garden for a while.
Hanging her handbag on to her Zimmer frame, she slowly made her way down the gravel path. She’d loved gardening. That was how she had fallen and broken her hip six weeks previously. Meanwhile, having settled down on her favourite bench, she found she was quite content just to look at the still-glistening spring garden, with its emerald lawn she didn’t have to mow, and admire the colourful wallflowers and pansies she hadn’t had to plant, as well as the cherry trees, resplendent in beautiful pink blossom.
She’d taken her book from her handbag, but found she didn’t feel much like reading, after all. Carefully replacing the bookmark at page 951, she extracted two well-worn photos from her purse instead. She gazed at them fondly. Harry had been dead for over five years, but there he was, smiling at her from under his bushy eye-brows. And there was Anna when she was little. Edith still remembered the red tricycle Anna used to ride up and down the garden path. It was hard to think Anna herself was now nearly 50 and had three grandchildren of her own. ‘Time seems so different as you get older,’ Edith thought. ‘It seems to stretch and compress itself in all sorts of peculiar ways.’
Suddenly, she heard the sound of wheels on the gravel path. They were bicycle wheels, fast wheels, throwing the gravel around in all directions. A small stone hit her leg and she looked up sharply. Just at that moment, the young, hooded rider of the bicycle bent down and snatched the handbag from her lap. Everything was in that handbag! Besides her book, she had £50 in cash, an irreplaceable address book and, of course, her bank card, with the number in her wallet. She was distraught. All she could do was to cry out: “Thief! Stop, thief! Help!” as she watched the young thug pedalling away like the wind.
Then everything seemed to happen at once. By a happy coincidence, Bertie had just been strolling through the shrubbery and had seen the whole scenario. He suddenly found that the quick reactions of a former soldier had not quite deserted him, after all. Straight and true, he hurled his walking stick right into the front wheel of the bicycle, where it became well and truly stuck in the spokes. The bike came to an extremely abrupt halt. So abrupt, in fact, that the rider was thrown head-first over the handle-bars, landing face-down on the gravel path.
With the speed and agility that, five minutes before, Bertie would not have thought possible, he retrieved his sturdy walking stick from the shattered spokes of the front wheel, and hooked the curved handle adroitly round the miscreant’s neck, while placing his right foot firmly between his shoulder blades. He was very tempted to jerk the stick neatly upwards, but refrained from doing so and, instead, just growled: “Be off with you! And if I ever catch you round here again, you’ll not get off so lightly.”
Enid was in raptures. She had got her precious handbag back, and Bertie was her hero!
(c) Jo Renton, 2022
Thank you to all the ladies who submitted writing for this special Thursday Connectors today. My wish for you all is to never be silenced. Always aim to shout out and follow your passions loud and clearly!
See you again next week. And if you’ve also been inspired to take part in some thought-provoking debate and creative writing relating to womanhood and our voices, please register and join my workshops via this link: