“Women and Justice,” Understorey Magazine
As part of The Town Crier’s ongoing coverage of literary magazines across North America, we present an announcement from Understorey Magazine. Read on to hear about their most recent issue, “The Women and Justice Issue.”
Because it’s 2015.
And there’s women in the cabinet
But that might not seem so adequate
To women in the custody of the state …
This poem by Halifax spoken-word artist and activist (and former poet laureate) El Jones opens the most recent issue of Understorey Magazine. “Women in Prison” goes on to portray the disproportionate and rising rates of incarceration for women in general, and for Black and Indigenous women, in particular.
Understorey is an online magazine of literary writing and visual art by and about Canadian women. The magazine launched in 2013 and earlier this year formed a partnership with the Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice at Mount Saint Vincent University.
All works of literary and visual art published in “The “Women and Justice Issue” of Understorey focus on aspects of social or criminal justice facing women in Canada.
Contributor Naomi Sears tells of wearing long sleeves to hide the psoriasis scars on her arms: “… I was arrested for shoplifting skin care products. The arresting officer wouldn’t even touch me to put on cuffs. He borrowed gloves from a sales clerk who snorted in distaste at my appearance.” She wrote her piece while incarcerated at the Central Nova Correctional Facility in Dartmouth, NS.
Vancouver writer Andrea Nicki contributed two poems on two very different elements of justice. First, “incested girl” contrasts innocence with a worldly fear, while “Academic Dialogue” describes an insidious form of social injustice:
He wants me to listen to
his story, his pain, his ideas
but not to mine
He says, “You are cold …”
The poetry, fiction, spoken word, and essays in Understorey Magazine cover a range of topics—from environmental justice to privilege to the work of enforcement officers—each written with insight and literary flare and each illustrated with exquisite visual art by Canadian women.
“The Women and Justice Issue” closes with a piece by Halifax’s current—and first Mi’kmaq—poet laureate, Rebecca Thomas. In “Etuaptmumk” she contrasts an Indigenous world view, necessarily comprised of two ways of seeing, with the singular and often destructive view of the settler:
Open your other set of eyes
Recognize the pain you have caused
Take a pause and start breathing.
Welcome to the world of Two Eyed Seeing.