We caught up with Birmingham Poet Laureate finalist 2014/15 Jasmine Gardosi who will be performing at our talk.Period event and asked her a few questions about why breaking menstrual hygiene taboos is important to her.
How did you get into writing poetry?
I’ve been a sucker for creative writing since I was, well writing – and discovered spoken word poetry in secondary school as a way to increase my confidence when speaking out loud. It isn’t quite like any other kind of writing; it’s such a two-way activity. You perform, the audience reacts.
What sparked this interest and why did you feel compelled to write this sort of material?
I think it was other people’s fascination with the subject that sparked my interest. I pretty idly wrote my first menstruation-related poem in university, without expecting it would be a big deal. Apparently, it was. People either praised it as the second coming of Jesus (even though, let’s be honest, it wasn’t the most polished of poems) or they winced.
Initially, I’d just wanted to touch upon the subject, but the reaction compelled me to write more. When people make a request for me to perform ‘your period poem’, I often reply ‘which one?’. The subject is as multi-faceted as all of our other daily (fine, monthly) occurrences and deserves to be explored fully, to be done justice to, to be saturated (yes, I went there). In my other poetry I’ll explore, say, education, social dynamics and other gender issues, but so far as menstruation goes I doubt I’ll be done with the subject any time soon. I also want to make sure I’m able to write truly good poems about the topic, rather than relying on the subject’s shock value as a means to impress.
What has been your biggest achievement to date and what are you most proud of?
Last year was a good year for me – I enjoyed sharing my views about menstruation with the public through my TEDxBrum talk at 2014’s International Women’s Day Salon at the Library of Birmingham. Since then, I’ve been shortlisted for Birmingham Poet Laureate which is a reflection of how eager I feel about the poetry scene there; it has bags of potential and is a stimulating place to be a poet right now – you should really check it out.
I think what I feel most proud of though is getting different groups of people to talk about periods – whether that’s in secondary schools or senior citizens’ clubs. Being able to kickstart conversations like those is pretty satisfying.
What issues do you feel particularly passionate about and important to address or change?
I think pointless taboos (like menstruation) need to be deconstructed because they indicate a more serious issue of what is (or should be) acceptable about women’s bodies in society. If women can talk about their bodies better, perhaps they can own them a little better too.
More generally though, the dent in the universe I’d like to make lies with increasing the confidence of young females. I’m currently developing workshops as part of an initiative called Big Girls Don’t Write that aims to offer a safe space for adolescent girls to express themselves as they go through puberty, whether it’s about periods, other bodily changes, consent, LGBTQ identity – creative sex education, so to speak.
In what ways do you feel the public could get involved or behind this to improve the situation?
Three things, principally:
- We need to start more conversations about periods, even in the unlikeliest of places. We have a whole treasure trove of our own embarrassing moments or anecdotes to share – and trust me, people bond over that. Only last year I discovered that I first started my period at the same point my mother ended hers – which happened to be the exact time we went through our family’s divorce. Weird, hey?
- We need to engage with the subject through art forms. Mine’s poetry. For other people, it’s music, or even flash mobs, like the one happening in Bristol this weekend. There are a whole other variety of mediums through which we can bring menstruation into everyday dialogue. Doing so creatively gives people ownership over their contributions.
- Improve our sex education. Education about menstruation, say, shouldn’t just be about periods, but about how we approach and talk about them too.
Why is getting involved in talk.Period important to you?
I’m excited to meet up and put heads together with other passionate individuals who are willing to put their time and effort into adding to the conversation. This is going to be an opportunity to bounce off other people with the same goal in mind, who understand the implications of taboos like this one, and how certain discourse shapes the way we think and act.
We – as in, everyone reading this or attending events like these – are the ones who decide what’s taboo and forbidden for the next generation. It’s a real honour to be invited to be amongst them on the 28th.
This event is sponsored by: