19 August 2021

Resistance: Righteous Rage in the Age of #MeToo
Edited by Sue Goyette
Published by University of Regina Press
Review by Elena Bentley
$24.95 ISBN 9780889778016

“[E]very woman has these / stories / or worse / even if they don’t / realize / it yet.” Poems written in response to the 2016 Jian Ghomeshi verdict fill the pages of Resistance: Righteous Rage in the Age of #MeToo, edited by Griffin Poetry Prize nominee and current Halifax Regional Municipality Poet Laureate Sue Goyette. This anthology aims to be an act of artful activism, offering “relief from [the] silence” perpetuated by a legal system that “excus[es] or pardon[s] the perpetrator’s crime.” It is a place to speak and be heard. And, most importantly, it is a space where “a collective of people… have chosen poetry to process an experience of violence.”

Of the four sections into which these masterclass poems are divided, the first, “Innocence/Exposure,” is the most difficult to read as the poems are highly affective and unsettling. Men collect, pull, play games with, crouch over, stare, poke, grab, paw, pin, grope, and pinch the young girls in these poems. The speaker in Marion Mutala’s poem says these experiences “chang[e] who you become.” But, luckily, this change is not the end of the process because in order to move forward from the past, we must look back at it and reflect.

The speakers in “Endurance/Persistence” occupy a liminal space where they attempt to both dissociate from and live within bodies that remember violence. Shame and guilt linger heavy over the lines in this section; and so, a desire to wash away the memories and be clean appears in many of these poems: one speaker “bathed, then / showered, then bathed again,” while another “jam[s] the bar [of soap] into [their] mouth.”

The poems in section three, “Rage/Resistance,” seethe with anger and ache for justice, effecting a change in tone. In Heather Read’s rhythmically perfect poem, “The Power in a Name,” the speaker demonstrates the ultimate “reclamation of voice” when she names her attacker: “Randy, you did / You did that to me.” This third quarter of the book vibrates with an energy that crescendos with every page turn, and reaches its peak right before the last section, “Survival/Recovery.”

Once we start to process our anger, we can begin the life-long journey of recovery. A common trope in section four is that of the butterfly—a yearning to let go, to change, and to be reborn. Interestingly, the focus shifts from the self (I) to the other (you) as hope flowers in each new stanza: “you are more than what was done to you;” “I did survive, I did / … / And so will you.” Yes, these poems say, “healing and forgiveness are possible,” especially when we listen to each other’s stories.

Kim Payne’s poem, “Unite,” is exactly the type of poem to write down and keep in your pocket—to be read (and reread) whenever outside voices threaten to quiet us. “[W]e will be heard,” writes Payne, in the final line of the final poem. This one simple word, we, encapsulates Goyette’s vision for this invaluable addition to CanLit: “a righteous collection of ‘I’s standing together.” I hear you. We hear you. #MeToo


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