I Call Upon The Witches
Chloe Hanks (@ChloeHanks4)
Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@cleric20)
“There is loneliness in mortality, in the knowing
that invisible strings can both draw us together
and pull us apart.”
By the pricking of my thumbs, something fascinating this way comes…
I Call Upon The Witches is a fantastic short collection of witch-themed poetry that I came across whilst researching The Hertfordshire Drownings.
Author Chloe Hanks has conjured up some incredible, thoughtful and heart-breaking verses, this is very much a book to be savoured and reflected on. Letting the poems seep through your consciousness is almost an act of tribute to the many women who’s lives were taken from them for the so-called ‘crime’ of witchcraft. It is dedicated to Petronella de Meath who was the first ‘witch’ to be burnt at the stake, she was just 24. Other notable women name-checked include Joan of Arc and Elizabeth Southerns - each poem is a voyage of discovery and homage. Topics range from musings on death and mortality to the wacky practice in Willamette where in the autumn people dress up as witches and go paddle boarding…
Faye Alexandra Rose, author of Pneuma describes it as a ‘poignant and compelling read which turns the traditional female villain archetype of ‘Witches’ into modern female empowerment. Breaking them free from their negative connotations through her use of striking imagery and bold intertextual links, Hanks re-writes history, showcasing that to be a witch is to be human, and perhaps there is a witch inside us all.’
There is much to enjoy here and I heartily recommend grabbing a copy both for yourself and for someone who needs some magical invigoration in their lives.
(5 - Beguiling & beautiful, meaningful & memorable - poetry to be savoured )
Get your copy of I Call Upon The Witches
After finding we share a love of Taylor Swift via the new magically medium of Twitter, I had the chance to ask Chloe some questions - here is what she said:
Matt: If you were to be granted magical powers, which ones would you want and
what would you use them for?
Chloe: If I had magical powers I would definitely want something cutting edge, like Eleven from Stranger Things. I think too much magical power could eliminate self-sufficiency and perhaps dull down my personality: as we often see in archetypal superheroes. But El’s powers are enough to unsettle rivals, save her friends and sometimes help with the impossible! They are limited which make her interesting and they do not infringe on her character development. And it would be nice to be able to move things without getting up sometimes.
Matt: What is the most disturbing fictional scene you’ve ever read or
watched in a book/film of any genre?
Chloe: TW/ sexual violence
I find sexual violence on screen extremely disturbing and believe quite strongly that it is not necessary. The film Nightingale directed by Elliot Lester contained so much sexual violence in the first 20 minutes that I couldn’t keep watching. I think it is the kind of aggression that could be alluded to, happen off screen or even in a more diluted form but explicit rape scenes do not belong in tv or film in my opinion. I am not sure it serves a purpose if it is traumatising to watch.
I also have a difficult relationship with vigilante feminism and the use of trauma to justify female villainy. I worry that trauma, especially sexual violence, is becoming a bit of a trope when it comes to fleshing out archetypal female characters which poses a threat to empowering victims and educating ourselves on trauma and how it can manifest.
Matt: If you could meet one woman who was killed as a supposed witch - who would you choose and why?
Chloe: I always say Anne Boleyn though technically she was accused of many things and not executed specifically for witchcraft.
I would love to have met Helen Duncan who was the last woman to be arrested under the Witchcraft Act of 1735. She was arrested in 1944 after performing seances and other spiritual practices; the authorities feared she would uncover war-time secrets and so they used the outdated policies to arrest her.
Matt: How do you know when a poem is 'finished’?
Chloe: It is always a different process for each poem. I find a poem feels finished when the closing lines give a sense of satisfaction or poignancy.
Redrafting poems is another story: I find getting feedback from readers is the only way to know the editing process is complete. Performing poetry and taking note of audience engagement is also a great way to know if the poem feels finished.
Matt: There’s a masked mob leader calling for you to be burnt as a witch - who is most likely to be under the mask?
Chloe: Most likely somebody that I once trusted very much.
Matt: What is the meaning of life?
Chloe: Overcoming challenges.
Matt: What was the best gift you’ve ever been given?
Chloe: Taylor Swift’s album Fearless which I received when I was 9 after a difficult dentist visit.
Matt: If you could have a familiar – what would it be, and do for you?
Chloe: It would definitely be a fox and I think he would discover secrets for me. He would probably be one of those foxes that gets spotted in people’s gardens at very strange moments.
Matt: What would you like written on your tombstone?
Chloe: Chloe Hanks, buried alive.
In the mood for something chilling? May I recommend this new anthology which I had the pleasure of writing the foreword for and submitting a short story that is included. Proceeds go to charity too so jump in (click the image below):