Today, I am thrilled to welcome my friend Sonora Taylor to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for the National Poetry Month project. I virtually met Sonora after she picked up and reviewed my own collection, Breathe. Breathe.. Afterwards, I found out we were both submitting pieces to the monthly ladies of horror flash project and we realized we had all sorts of similar interests and became friends. I’m excited she’s here to talk about her reading of the poetry collection I am Not Your Final Girl by Claire Holland and how things that happens to us in the world as females build pent-up anger that can no longer be held inside.
This is a great piece – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. May we all stay mad.
Stay Mad: “I Am Not Your Final Girl” and Feminine Anger
by Sonora Taylor, author of Without Condition
When you’re a woman, you spend a lot of time being angry. Or maybe not angry, but certainly upset, perturbed, maddened, or otherwise disturbed. It starts when a boy hurting you on the playground is dismissed as “him having a crush,” to being told to dismiss the sexist insults laid in your ears as just words, to learning to just walk away and forget it when a grown man yells to you and your teenage friends that “he smells p*ssy,” even though you hear it in your mind long after it happened.
Even when it’s not so blatant, there are little annoyances every day that come with being a woman. Being spoken to by strangers without any prompting, being overlooked at work or dismissed in group discussions, being frowned upon for the choices you make for yourself. Even when it’s not directly happening to you, you see what everyone thinks of you when you open a paper, turn on the television, or log on to any number of social media sites. “Slut” and “bitch” are interspersed with people who can’t believe women are this, can’t believe women said that, can’t believe women just are.
This isn’t to say that all who see women’s existence as an injustice want them to no longer be. Most want their survival, but they want it in the face of being able to hurt them. A woman’s role is to survive a never-ending barrage of wounds to her body and soul. In a sense, women are almost always the final girls of the horror movie of their life, taken piece by piece until they lay battered and broken.
But the beauty of the final girl is that she takes her damage and uses it to fight back. She claws at assault, defies the order of monsters and men by surviving for herself and not for their sadistic pleasures. It’s why we love these characters in horror films, why women keep coming back to these stories — even though we see violence against our bodies and souls, we see ourselves emerge triumphant by the end.
Such inspiration drives the spirit of a wonderful collection of poetry by Claire C. Holland. “I Am Not Your Final Girl” features poems named for several final girls, both well- and lesser-known, but all legendary in horror. From Halloween’s “Laurie” to Antichrist’s “She” (one of my favorite films), each poem dives into the emotional core of the titular final girl, a core that sometimes goes missing in their respective original stories. Even the best horror films sometimes eschew the emotional impact in favor of blood and guts, and stories that get into the emotions still cannot dive into one’s mind the way that prose and verse can.
She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) from Antichrist
Holland fills in these gaps with both the character’s canonical emotions and her own imagining of what the characters are thinking — as well as her response to what each woman goes through. “Thomasin” (from The Witch) shares the story of a girl who tried to do right, but was only rewarded when she did right by herself. “Selena” (from 28 Days Later, my favorite horror film) delves into the struggle of a woman who fought tooth and nail to save a society that, in the end, wanted to survive by harming her and other women. Every woman’s story, and every woman’s subsequent poem, is different; but all are united in that they survive the barrage that is all too familiar to the feminine spirit.
Selena (Naomie Harris) from 28 Days Later
Holland opens the collection with an essay about her ongoing anger since 2016. I’ve felt the same anger since 2016, felt shades of it before 2016, have felt it in various degrees throughout my life. When I picked up her collection, I was especially mad at the dismissal of several qualified women candidates for president in lieu of another white, cis-male face. I read Holland’s words and felt my anger manifesting into something better, something I could cradle and use to keep my fight up as opposed to keeping my spirits down. That feeling continued as I read her recounting of the final girls that fought and clawed their way to the bloody end. I plan to make it to whatever comes next — and I plan to stay mad.
Sonora Taylor, Biography
Sonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Wither and Other Stories, and Please Give. Her work has appeared in The Sirens Call, Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven. She’s currently working on her next short story collection, Little Paranoias: Stories. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband. Visit her online on her website.
And check out I am Not Your Final Girl –
A timely collection of poetry that follows the final girl of slasher cinema – the girl who survives until the end – on a journey of retribution and reclamation.
From the white picket fences of 1970s Haddonfield to the apocalyptic end of the world, Holland confronts the role of women in relation to subjects including feminism, violence, motherhood, sexuality, and assault in the world of Trump and the MeToo movement.
Each poem centers on a fictional character from horror cinema, and explores the many ways in which women find empowerment through their own perceived monstrousness.
Photo Creds –