Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sex, between the lines

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proud moment: Founders of Bamboo Press Paula Obe and Carole Hosein at the National Library (Nalis) for the launch of their first regional anthology, She Sex. —Photo: VERDEL BISHOP

Mark Fraser


Since the launch of a regional anthology in which Caribbean women writers explored their sexuality and expressed their thoughts and desires about sex through poetry and prose, there has been a lot of buzz.



She Sex, the first anthology by Bamboo Talk Press was launched recently at the National Library (Nalis) in Port of Spain and features intimate, emotionally explicit, yet accessible poetry, representing new voices as well as some revered contemporary female poets from the Caribbean, who freely revealed their sexual connection and expression in an engaging and entertaining book.  



It is being described as risque in a culture that still stigmatises expressions of sexuality. She Sex knows no boundaries and discusses everything from experiences of sexual assault, sexual pleasures, eroticism and exploring all there is to possibly explore on the topic.  Bamboo Talk Press director and poet, Paula Obe said while some will see the book as controversial, she noted our taboo on the topic leaves us ill-equipped to discuss, let alone ask questions about our personal experiences with sexuality—even when doing so would help us. She said the more we talk about sex, the more we can erase its cultural stigma, helping people embrace and enjoy their sexualities. Obe describes the book as poetry and prose looking at the theme of sex as it relates to religions and race orientation. She wants the book to be used as a tool to encourage discussion.



“Some people will find some of the contents of the book to be controversial but that’s ok, there is nothing wrong with that but we are a sexual society and we see it every time for Carnival, yet there is still no open discussions about sex. This anthology is important in a number of ways. In an academic way it opens up the floor for discussion among younger women. The book explores various aspects of sex — as well as the good and the bad. It deals with some of the hurtful ways that some women experience sex, through incest, molestation and rape and violence.”



She added: “When we sent out the call for stories the women had a wide gamut of topics to choose from and when I started getting submissions I thought that they were just erotic submissions, but there are so many different ways in which women view sex and we have explored them in this anthology. For some of the writers it’s their first time opening up on the topic. Some of them were writing before and won’t published but they were writing in their diaries. But we also have some experienced published writers.” 



Obe said, “I felt amazed by some of the submissions and I was touched because they are the stories that needed to be shared because every woman can see themselves in one of these poems. For instance in one of the stories an older woman is having sex for the first time and she is experiencing an orgasm for the first time. How many older women are comfortable discussing this topic?



These are some of the things that people don’t talk about. So the book opens up a forum for positive and open discussions.” Obe said while She Sex is an



anthology by women writers, men can also find the book valuable. She is hoping to liaise with the University of the West Indies (UWI) to facilitate a series of discussions as open dialogue on the topic. Poet, Tiphanie Yanique, author of How to Escape from a Leper Colony had this to say about the anthology: “She Sex is an important gathering of women’s voices. On one hand the writing is a celebration of sexual fulfilment and curiosity ranging from Atiya’s poem, ‘Differentology’, about sex with a lover who transitions from a male to a female, and to Zahra I Airall’s story, ‘Over the Hill and Through the Wood’ about an older woman finding sexual gratification for the first time. But the anthology does not shy away from the ways that sex is used as a weapon against women.



Both Delesse Francis and Shakirah Bourne write stories of intimacy and emotion about ways that sexual power can be used as a primary tool to control women and seed self-doubt in girls. I hope young women around the Caribbean get a chance to read this book and have heated discussions about the beauty of sexual pleasure and vulnerability of that very beauty. The collection also does important work by introducing some writers to a wider audience.” The contributors are from countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Barbados and Bermuda and shared their views through poetry and short stories. The writers include Paula Obè, Kavita Vidya Ganness, Lisa Allen-Agostini, Carol Hosein, Zahra I Airal, Shivana Singh, Neila Ebanks, Atiya Gilberte, Patrice Charles, Krys-Darcelle Dumas, Danielle Boodoo-Fortunè, Joanne C Hillhouse, Nancy Ann Miller, Carlyon Blackman, Sandra Sealy, Cher Corbin, Lisa-Marie Brown, Davia Andrews, Delesse Francis, Rae Voisin, Shakirah Bourne, Nicole George, Marsha Gomes-McKie, Rachael N Collymore and Laytoya Wakefield.