Week 4 Poem of the Week: “Damned” by Alessandra Rey

We speak to our Week 4 Poet of the Week, Alessandra, to gain an insight into her excellent poem “Damned”


To exist as a woman and to be damned
by other females and indubitably the man,
On every scribbled scripture or record written
and to do or do not, have it be no winning.
On every poster emblazoned and turned page,
there it is again, the rock and the hard place.
A shredded soul and raw eyes from the inundated
apprised expectations and dictations.
The interminable tick and hours agonised
trying to keep up, only to be chastised, anyway.
Attempting to comply to unattainable demands
but nevertheless receive castigation and be damned.

A cyclone, a sinkhole of deleterious asphyxiation,
an enervating, unrelenting pendulum-swing without cessation.
To be too alluring or not alluring enough,
to be deemed frigid and cold or to be labelled a slut.
Merely doing nothing, nothing, nothing at all
warrants spiteful abuse she still could be called.
She’s not cut out for exhausting contradictions,
the piercing-cold or scorching-hot extreme definitions.
Libertine drool for the virgin or the vixen,
taking submission or omission as permission
to the forceful or threatening propositions.
The response to a no is a ricochet bullet of cruel crucifixion
and can be wrenched and twisted to a false and sinister depiction.

Image credits: Keira Quirk

The infamous pervasion of the Madonna-Whore dichotomy,
She was begging for it when she decided not to dress modestly.
When nails dig into thighs or cause the skirt to rise, she will scream audibly
until her lungs are burnt and spat at for dishonesty.
Pursued and plagued and persevered after constantly,
but then to say yes appraises her of “lesser” quality.
Adulated chaste Mary is hunted after with callosity
but the uncouth and vulgar Jezebel is seen as a monstrosity.
Paradoxical paralysing blares are an overwhelming cacophony
rooted in sinister, inequitable, undeniable misogyny
manifesting itself as a twisted philosophy.

Adorned with eyes that glare, reproached that she is a distraction
that her appearance, her features are warranting attraction
the general consensus stating dissatisfaction, with her.
The green eyed and bitter look upon her with dearth of compassion
and proceed to slash and spit, making her a beacon of detractions.
She cares too much for her appearance, she’s only there due to her face,
it’s justifiable therefore for them to chase or debase.
A contrary ponder is she’s attacked for neglecting rules of beauty,
an unsightly abhorrence who doesn’t know her duty
and thus a valid explanation to treat her cruelly.

Image credits: Keira Quirk

Sincere smiles and kind words are misconstrued or deduced as fake
and can be viable reasoning for the feelings of contempt or hate.
Pulling her head up with string to have her words and thoughts spoken
but was broken down and lips sewed up, her voice was then stolen.
Excessively loud and dominate, she conformed to the muzzle
but was slapped by the “speak up” and was mystified by this puzzle.
She tried to mould like clay but was sodden like mud
and was drowned and fatigued by the merciless flood,
the stones that were thrown at her gave her no blood.
She tried to adhere but it was never enough
with the infinite list of restrictions and afflictions,
she yearned to give up.

A ruthless and unyielding barbed wire jump-rope
that kept the monkey dancing, kept her on her toes.
No middle ground allowed, multi-faceted doesn’t exist,
but it is an unforgiving, harsh audience that would insist and persist.
This little chamomile flower, backwards over in its bend
and still the field of grass had it condemned.
To do as they said or to say that she wouldn’t
was to be damned if she did or damned if she didn’t.

Image credit: Keira Quirk

After reading this wonderful poem, we caught up with Alessandra about her inspirations and writing process.

First of all, Alessandra gives us an exceptionally interesting insight into her poem’s background: “The poem explores the pervasive feeling that I think so many women experience: the feeling that you can’t win or succeed, no matter how hard you try or who you are. Rather, that you are punished or cannot avoid malicious criticism. Society loves to factionalize women into boxes and then demonize or condemn those very factions that are perpetuated and have been thrusted upon women. The more you try to adapt, correct, conform, go from one version to another, or remain entirely authentic to yourself, there will always be one reason or another to reprimand you or tear you down. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, as a woman.

“I came to write it because I get really saddened and frustrated when I see it occur. I’ve seen it so many times, experienced it first-hand, and witness it throughout the media. You witness one celebrity woman being condemned for being too ‘irritatingly good’ and ‘pure’ and then another being ‘too bold/subversive’, ‘sexualising herself’ or ‘arrogant’. I have felt like there has been constant exterior dichotomous commentary throughout my life and I find it really upsetting and hard to deal with. It feels very disheartening and though you are constantly trying to appeal, be good enough and be a good person, there will always be something said or done to unnecessarily criticise, insult and rip you apart.”

Image credits: Hannah Huang

She adds that she first discovered the impact and catharsis poetry created on her life during lockdown, when she wrote constantly, although does concede that, “I write less often now because of university busyness. When I gave poetry writing a proper go, I used it as a vessel to process things that I had gone through, throughout my life, to offer relief or meaning so that I could work through it.

“I also have a lot of difficult recurring thoughts and it really aids in being able to ameliorate those overwhelming feelings! I still definitely write regarding that, but I also feel there a lot of beautiful things or things to be appreciated in my life now, being the happiest I’ve ever been, that I really enjoy writing about!

“I also write poetry about things in the world, less introspectively and more exteriorly, that dishearten, dispirit, distress or sadden me as I find it still a very good way to process emotions and thoughts.”

As for her biggest influences, she cites a number: “Audre Lorde, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou! I also really love Carol Ann Duffy. I think Vladimir Nabokov’s poetry is also brilliant and John Keats!”

That’s a wrap for our Poem of the Week feature for this week – if you, too, would like to see an original poem of yours featured right here in The Tab, we would love to hear from you: submissions are open now, just email your poem to [email protected] (submission guidelines outlined in the original article here). We can’t wait to hear from you!

Feature image credits: Keira Quirk

Articles recommended by this author: