On 27 February, we were invited to an exclusive evening of poetry readings: ‘Love in Other Words’ organised by cultural producer and curator Ryan Lanji at the Hoxton Holborn hotel. In between sips of wine and nibbles of olives, a room of about 30 people nestled in to listen to Zia Ahmed read poems about lost love and familial ties, Scarlet Sabet read from her new book ‘Camille’, and then we were treated to a special reading of the Erica Jung poem ‘Alcestis On The Poetry Circuit’ by activist, actress and author of memoir ‘Brave’, Rose McGowan. Here we have Erica Jung’s poem chosen by Rose and a poem from Scarlet’s new collection for you to read.
Alcestis On The Poetry Circuit by Erica Jung
(In Memoriam Marina Tsvetayeva, Anna Wickham, Sylvia Plath, Shakespeare¹s sister, etc., etc.)
The best slave
does not need to be beaten.
She beats herself.
Not with a leather whip,
or with stick or twigs,
not with a blackjack
or a billyclub,
but with the fine whip
of her own tongue
& the subtle beating
of her mind
against her mind.
For who can hate her half so well
as she hates herself?
& who can match the finesse
of her self-abuse?
Years of training
are required for this.
of subtle self-indulgence,
until the subject
thinks herself a queen
& yet a beggar -
both at the same time.
She must doubt herself
in everything but love.
She must choose passionately
She must feel lost as a dog
without her master.
She must refer all moral questions
to her mirror.
She must fall in love with a cossack
or a poet.
She must never go out of the house
unless veiled in paint.
She must wear tight shoes
so she always remembers her bondage.
She must never forget
she is rooted in the ground.
Though she is quick to learn
& admittedly clever,
her natural doubt of herself
should make her so weak
that she dabbles brilliantly
in half a dozen talents
& thus embellishes
but does not change
If she's an artist
& comes close to genius,
the very fact of her gift
should cause her such pain
that she will take her own life
rather than best us.
& after she dies, we will cry
& make her a saint.
For Jack by Scarlett Sabet
You who let your own gift decay
You who I remember everyday, to honour my own face and pen,
You, who’s face I saw reflected in my grandfathers, Catholic forefathers
You who flinched unbearable under scrutiny
Who tried to exist as lightly as possible, through your own desecration, crucifixion, mortification
Who’s tears and fears were exacerbated by the Ocean
You who uncomfortable in applause put down your own book
You who destroyed your beauty with hops and yeast, smeared the vertiginous caverns of your face into red loss and shame
You who could not stand even five decades
You who were thrown drowning into the terrible sea and asked to analyse your breathing, your own loss of breathing and failing lungs You who wrote, anticipated the flesh, sampled flesh, was offered flesh then turned and left
You whose grave I gave my roses, lilies, boot heels and tears.
You who tried the unattainable, tasted the forbidden then lashed your own back in repentance
You who rode the highways, superior to sleep and disease for seven sun cycles
You who chose the unavailable for deep down you knew your destiny was unassailable
You who waited for a coyote of the road to say: as above so below You who held Beatitude so high and while you are not here you are everywhere
You who opted out in despair, you have created love everywhere
You who were born in the third month of the year, your Pisces stellium extinguishing your fire Mars, casting you the ceaseless Neptune King followed by fish all your life
You swallowed dust and oil, you kept the rhythm of a cool, cool Aquarius heart, that detached, split everyone’s loins in half
and Sewards’s progeny in hot Texas dust, his common law wife, her german face sunken of any life
You your eyes earnest soulful offered up the truth to be spat at like a lumberjack
You too young and pure, your voice like Massachusetts honey, but gliding
oh Jack O Lantern you burnt so bright, you were the guiding light,found guilty of illuminating the way sacrificed at dawn light, dear brother Jackson, you’ve got an emergency message, a date,
to sail the mystic sea, to swim with fishes you thought would be safer but the sea was a demon that promised You danger, you
were possessed with evil, your thoughts red and blue, repulsed by everyone that professed to love you
and I know, and you know, and Jimmy knows:
that we were all born rip torn and screaming, baptised in our bleeding, always chasing a womb of warmth heat and light in the desolate wasteland of life