Kristiana Reed Interviews Kindra M. Austin, Candice Louisa Daquin, Rachel Finch, and Christine E. Ray About the Anthology ‘We Will Not Be Silenced’ — December 1, 2018

Kristiana Reed Interviews Kindra M. Austin, Candice Louisa Daquin, Rachel Finch, and Christine E. Ray About the Anthology ‘We Will Not Be Silenced’

In the last few years, the stage on which women and men were always expected to prance and perform has changed. Windows are being installed in the wings. The heavy, velvet curtains are being pulled down and the ropes are being severed. The gauze on the lights is being torn or removed so they shine brighter and the ornamental ceiling has wide cracks in the stucco and tears in the paint. All that has been built around us for centuries – patriarchy, gender stereotypes, heterosexuality being the only sexuality, expectations of femininity, toxic masculinity and silence – is crumbling. It is crumbling because of people like the editors of We Will Not Be Silenced.

This anthology, which showcases powerful poetry, prose, essays and art, is the lived experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I was given the wonderful opportunity to interview the women who, in response to current events such as Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous stand against Brett Kavanaugh, decided to do more than just support those who share their stories. Christine Ray, Kindra Austin, Rachel Finch and Candice Daquin chose to create a monumental anthology which empowered an array of men and women from around the globe, to shatter the bonds of silence they were told they had to keep. It will no doubt propel the momentum we already feel with movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo and continue to shift power from the guilty many to the innocent many; who never asked for what happened to them.

I asked the editors four questions and below I have edited together their responses. I hope you enjoy reading about their own personal strength as well as their unconditional desire to help others.

We Will Not Be Silenced’ – What does this phrase mean to you?

Rachel: ‘It means Courage, Strength, the Reclaiming of Personal Power & Healing. It means we are not victims but survivors.’

Christine: ‘Breaking the silence and writing about my experiences became critical to my survival. The public backlash from the Kavanaugh hearings also reminded all of us how easy it can be to dismiss a single survivor.  We wanted to make a strong statement that we would not continue to maintain a silence that only benefits our abusers and the rape culture that surrounds us.’

Kindra: ‘We Will Not Be Silenced means we have found our voices, and we are going to use them—we will not wait to be asked.’

Candice: ‘By having a movement first with #metoo and now with We Will Not Be Silenced, this has felt like a reclamation or growth, the silence into a unified voice. That voice is saying no, you don’t have the power to silence me anymore. I am going to speak my truth.’

What do you envision or hope the legacy of this anthology will be?

Candice: ‘To be one way by which survivors and their loved ones, as well as anyone affected by sexual assault, can gain acceptance, healing, conversation, openness, through a pure art form.’

Rachel: ‘I hope the stigma concerning this type of abuse will change and that the anthology will help raise both awareness and understanding of how such an experience can affect a person. I hope that those that do know this pain are able to see that they are not alone in their experiences or feelings related to this and know that their voice matters and they need not be silenced as we were. I hope my daughters and sons read every page and see clearly that a person can carry strength even in their quiet but that we do not have to be.’

Kindra: ‘I hope that survivors of assault find strength, validation, and camaraderie within the pages. I would love to see We Will Not Be Silenced nationally recognized for what it is: a call to action.’

Christine: ‘We want to see the Anthology in public libraries, and rape crisis centers, and being read on public transportation.  We want to hear non-survivors say, “I didn’t understand until now.”  We want this to lessen the isolation of survivors who have not shared their story and help them realize that whatever they are feeling is normal and that we don’t have to stay victims.’

Why is the publication of this anthology important to you?

Christine: ‘The week of the Kavanaugh Hearings was incredibly triggering for me as a survivor.  There were times that I felt afraid and literally heartsick at what I read on social media, what I saw on the news.  But what I increasingly felt was outrage and anger.  I needed to do something creative and productive with those feelings.  I needed to connect with others who were feeling the same way and create something bigger than ourselves.’

Rachel: ‘When you have carried a story with no words inside of you for so many years, the telling of it becomes much more than just that. Many of these poems stir deep and painful emotions, at the same time, the collection is both empowering and liberating.’

Kindra: ‘We have to fight way too hard for respect, and compassion, and equality. Survivors of sexual assault live with a stigma projected upon us by the people who should be working toward justice, and making sure we have the support we need to get back to living and not just existing. This publication is important because we want victims to become survivors.’

Candice: ‘For the four of us, this was a necessary response to the climate politically in America and world-wide. Publication of these voices is a validation of their existence and their survival and I truly believe in the power of the printed word.’

You thanked people for trusting you with their pain, their stories and their survival. Can you share the moment when you realized how significant and powerful this project would be for you and many others?

 Christine: ‘We only opened submissions for a two-week period and received hundreds of pieces of writing and art in those two weeks.  We are still hearing from people who just learned about the project and wanted to submit.  It has been incredibly humbling and inspiring to hear from the contributors why it was important for them to participate.’

Candice: ‘This has slowly evolved into something far bigger than any of us could have expected, it speaks for all of us, it contains all of our momentum, frustrations and rage as well as our need for more than we presently have. I truly believe it’s taken on a life of its own and this is exactly what you would wish for as far as any collaborative project goes, although the fierce beauty and courage of these survivors never fails to take my breath away. I am so honored and humbled by the response it just makes me want to do more.’

Rachel: ‘Whilst reading through each piece I found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks for both myself and every survivor that had come forward with their truth and it was during the submission process that I realized this project was significant to many hundreds of people and that together the poetry creates both a powerful depiction of what it is to experience sexual violence and the importance of why we must untangle our vocal chords.’

Kindra: ‘All I know that is that all four of us are awestruck by the strength—the sheer will—and honesty of these beautiful contributors. I’ve collaborated on a lot of projects, but We Will Not Be Silenced is by far the most important and powerful to me.’ – Kindra Austin

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We Will Not Be Silenced was be released on November 27, 2018.  It is available in both print and Kindle editions.

The editors want to ensure free copies of this anthology make it into to the hands of the people and organisations who need it most. Visit their Go Fund Me page to learn more about how you can help this movement be one which saves lives and changes history.

-Kristiana Reed

Image courtesy of April Yvette

Kristiana Reed Reviews Magpie in August, by Kindra M. Austin — July 24, 2018

Kristiana Reed Reviews Magpie in August, by Kindra M. Austin

Austin stuns with her debut novel, Magpie in August. A lovingly written narrative about living, dying and the purgatory in between.

I’ve been an admirer and reader of Austin’s poetry since late 2016, a little while after she started poemsandparagraphs. Austin always writes honestly with the razor-sharp ability to steal the breath from my lungs and make me punch the air with my fist. However, I did not know what to expect with Magpie in August, except it grew out of her relationship with her late mother (as revealed in her interview with Sudden Denouement founder, Jasper Kerkau).

Within the first few pages, Magpie, our protagonist, was sketched into my mind in vivid magenta, violet, and deep charcoal. Magpie’s love for Peter was palpable from the first time he called her ‘Beautiful’ as if it was her ‘God given name’. Her mother, Lynette, is an angel and demon wrapped up in one and Renny, Magpie’s reader and listener, a friend and foe. Austin leads us to believe we know everything there is to know about these people. Magpie can be cruel. Lynette is fickle and flippant. Peter is a watchful guardian and Renny is silent.

But, they are people, not characters and so our omniscient facade soon falls away. In every chapter, Austin gifts us a new angle, new mirror and new prism to refract everything we knew through. In fact, it is only Peter, quite fittingly, who remains the same.

Austin gave me a safe space to reflect on my own relationships, to draw parallels and thank my blessings. Her exploration of grief and loss is beautiful. A stunning, heart-wrenching tribute to the human condition and its difficulty to love unconditionally, when love, at the end of it all, is what we do best. Every person receives redemption of some form – Magpie, Lynette, Wren, Dalton (Magpie’s father) and even Jessica Wenzel.

Austin’s unwavering guidance into the darkness of rock bottom, Lake Huron and even the supernatural was superb. Authors like Cecelia Ahern (If You Could See Me Now), F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) and Douglas Kennedy (The Woman in the Fifth) came to mind as Austin matched their ability to write people not caricatures and take them to places we didn’t expect; never once causing the reader to doubt their ability in ensuring it all makes sense in the end.

Magpie in August ends just as it should. The Magpie who wakes up from a dreamy slumber in chapter 1 is the Magpie embracing all the earth and sky have to offer in the final chapter. Austin brings us full circle; allowing us to reap the rewards of a woman saving herself.

Magpie leaves us believing she deserves to breathe, love and wait for her ‘beloved stars to awaken silvery blue in an inky sky.’

Magpie in August is available at Amazon.com


Kristiana Reed daydreams, people watches in coffee shops, teaches English and writes. She is a curator on Blood into Ink, a collective member of The Whisper and the Roar and blogs at My Screaming Twenties. She is 24 and is enjoying the journey which is finding her voice.

Review of A Sparrow Stirs its Wings, Rachel Finch by Kristiana Reed — July 11, 2018

Review of A Sparrow Stirs its Wings, Rachel Finch by Kristiana Reed

From the moment Sudden Denouement Publishing announced the publication of Rachel Finch’s debut poetry collection, I could not wait to read it. Finch made a brave and bold entrance onto Blood into Ink, with ignition pieces like Girls are not for Beating (pg.35). I was hooked by her ability to sing fire with a bloody mouth.

A Sparrow Stirs its Wings houses this spirit of fight and flight. Flight not from fear but from the space she has shaped to soar. The structure of the collection reminds me of Alfa’s Silent Squall except Finch begins with the girl crossing her heart and hoping to die, walking on eggshells (pg.19), and ends as a woman who recognises strength and hope in her reflection:

I did not notice the growth, until I had grown,
I had not seen myself changing, becoming,
until the woman I forged reflected my gaze
and held my stare with no shame.’

  • Hold the Stare
  • In fact, I would even say Finch’s sparrow does more than stir its wings – it unfurls them in the morning sun and defies the laws of gravity. This debut collection is more than just honest, beautifully brutal storytelling. Finch has created a collection the reader will feel compelled to return to, time and time again. Moon Breathing makes me fall in love, Heal is the advice I need imprinted on my palm and Still Smouldering never fails to provoke a visceral reaction:

    ‘I was reborn a dragon feasting on the fire in my belly, lit with milk teeth in my mouth’

    Finch’s voice has found a home, in these pages and in my chest. She touches her readers. She tells the truth and explores hers. She leaves you with the following words:

    ‘You are the smell of rain before it hits the soil.’

    And you can’t help but believe them.

    Image courtesy of Alfa

    You can read more of Kristiana’s writing at My Screaming Twenties

     

     

    Kristiana Reed Reviews Nicholas Gagnier’s Swear To Me — June 27, 2018

    Kristiana Reed Reviews Nicholas Gagnier’s Swear To Me

    Swear to Me, an anthology of struggle and survival from Nicholas Gagnier, is a triumphant reveal of lonely hearts which aren’t so lonely after all. It appears a slim book of poetry when in fact it is the friend checking in on you. The friend who makes you a hot beverage or pours you a drink. The friend who listens without questions. The friend who doesn’t shrink from the boxes you’ve labeled ‘MADNESS’ but helps you unpack them. The friend who with just a smile, call or brief squeeze of your hand says: ‘You’re still here and I’m so glad you are.’

    There is an undeniable sense of community in Swear to Me. Gagnier himself comments on the contributing writers being ‘the heart of a message this book represents.’ They are the chorus swelling behind Gagnier’s honest, raw solo. The standouts for me were Christine Ray’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ and Nicole Lyons’ ‘The Mmm of Her’. This chorus hits a crescendo with ‘A Room So Still and Quiet’ – a culmination of the powerful, healing voices Gagnier evokes in his poem ‘Survivors’ – they are the ‘light that refuses to die.’

    However, this anthology is also crafted in the knowledge we don’t all want battle drums and war paint; sometimes we just want to know we are not alone, we are understood. Gagnier and his words are the close friends we all need and deserve and whilst some poems ignite a fire in your belly, others nod with understanding or wrap you up in shaking, ‘we can do this together’ arms. ‘A Normal Life’ is one of the most touching odes to struggle and survival I’ve ever read:

    ‘you are my beacon, even brighter

    overcompensating madness

    in the maddest of ways.’

    It’s love. Battle drums, war paint, and love. Love of yourself, others and life itself – embracing the madness as your normal. Letting the walls crumble, the expectations you are something other, pack their bags and realizing the home you want to build is inside you with a ribcage scaffold. ‘Ten Year Story’, ‘Beautiful Human’ and ‘Longhurt’ are other personal favourites which all remind me of the importance of love and acceptance.

    Finally, like all good friends, you will always have fond memories to reminisce about during your darkest and brightest days. The friend I found in Swear to Me is no exception. Upon finishing this anthology, I’ve returned to two poems in particular time and time again. ‘Homeward Legend’ reminds me the heart on my sleeve isn’t a weakness, and my story is not over. ‘Almost Happiness’ reminds me we do not have to be everything all at once – we don’t have to bottle up the darkness and strike false smiles like matches because:

    ‘Almost happiness is better

    than none.’

    This anthology was a long time coming (ten years) and yet I’m glad because in it Gagnier displays his heart for all to see and touch, and in this act of catharsis gives you the courage to do the same. To live unashamedly in the dark and in the light.

    Swear To Me is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.com.uk, and Book Depository


    Kristiana Reed day dreams, people watches in coffee shops, teaches English and writes. She is a curator on Blood into Ink, a collective member of The Whisper and the Roar & Sudden Denouement, and blogs at My Screaming Twenties. She is 24 and is enjoying the journey which is finding her voice.

    Kristiana Reed Reviews Alfa’s Silent Squall — May 30, 2018

    Kristiana Reed Reviews Alfa’s Silent Squall

    ‘It was him or me, and I decided – I wanted to live.’

    Silent Squall was my first encounter with Alfa’s work. If I were to review the book in a few words, I would cite the journey I embarked upon from page one and the words I have been left with since. Alfa lives within these pages. She broke my heart (Flight), gifted me the parts large enough to piece back together (In the Air) and taught me how to do so (Landing).

    In the author’s note, Alfa addresses a question she is often asked: ‘Why do you only write about love?’ She answers with the words – ‘Love trumps everything’ and in Silent Squall, this is the lesson she teaches. We are told a story about how love broke and abused her but we are taught that love can also save us, if we let it.

    Flight

    ‘But, she will know her mother had layers that she never peeled back – for fear that her soul would seem chilly when unclothed.’

    Therapy Poems

    Alfa opens honestly. It is painful but it is necessary. A few pieces in and her survival is palpable. ‘One day the leaves…’ (pg.24) explores how love changes its face. How hands made for holding can become fists. A smile becomes a snarl. The complexity of love is also captured by lines like ‘I spent most of our years together…trying to find a way out’ and ‘I have slept hungry an entire marriage.’ She opens our eyes, ears and hearts to the abuse she survived – she is honest, never gratuitous. ‘I cannot breathe’ (pg. 72) chilled me to the bone. The ‘angelic voice’ of her daughter kindled a fire in my belly and revealed to me how it feels to want to live, to want someone to survive.

    In the Air

    ‘How to raise sons who respect women:

    Never give them the opportunity

    to see you disrespect yourself.’

    Therapy Poems

    All of the ‘Therapy Poems’ in this part are outstanding. They continually remind us of the limbo between surviving and living. This is the beginning of recovery. As a result, this part feels muddled, methodically muddled. It is uncomfortable to read as we experience the taste of freedom and how the past is triggered; even when convinced she has run far enough away. Alfa does not try to strike a balance here. Instead, she lays out all her broken pieces and the parts she had learnt to hide.

    Landing

    Here we begin to truly feel those first words – ‘I wanted to live’. There is love, hope and Warrior Princess truth but by no means is it sunshine and rainbows. I adored how armed with metaphors (flowers in particular) her writing isn’t tinged with rose. From beginning to end, she gives us reality not romanticism.

    We are often told there is light at the end of the tunnel. Alfa reveals how although this light exists; sometimes it is blinding, sometimes it glimmers gently and sometimes it is a candle guttering in the breeze. All you need to remember is the light still exists and love will lead you to it.

    This book made me cry, frown, gasp, hope, laugh and smile. Alfa will remind you how sweet the taste of air is, how loud your heart pumps in your chest and how we are the calm and the storm.


    Kristiana Reed day dreams, people watches in coffee shops, teaches English and writes. She is a curator on Blood into Ink, a collective member of The Whisper and the Roar & Sudden Denouement, and blogs at My Screaming Twenties. She is 24 and is enjoying the journey which is finding her voice.