Against Rape: Philomela

I’ve been following the Against Rape online protest on, such a moving collection of art and poetry. It’s going on for the next few days so catch some of their future posts here.

In the introduction they talk about the silencing that is a part of rape culture:

‘It is into this silence that Against Rape speaks. Ovid and William Shakespeare knew this: the classical myth of Philomela is presented sympathetically in their work, with admiration for the silenced survivor’s determination to bear witness in any way she can.’

The story of Philolmela I summarise thus:

Tereus kidnaps Philomela, his wife’s sister.  He rapes her; when she says she will tell everyone what he has done, he cuts her tongue out. She weaves her tale into a tapestry which she sends her sister, Procne, who rescues her and the two women get their revenge.

I wrote a response to this story as part of my work with Artipeeps. Over the last nine months I’ve been responding to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and have submitted a few pieces responding to Philomela’s story. You can find Tereus, the husband’s voice here in month six.

In solidarity with #AgainstRape, here is my poem for Philomela: (may be triggering)

Philomela: ‘I shall fill the forests with my voice.’


I would have died before it happened

seen him couple with a corpse.

My body is a betrayal. I cannot look.


My sister and I share blood.

Our concubine lives

slipping away with the sun.


The silence I was given at birth,

to be a woman is to learn it,

like a gift, an act of balance.


The silence that I dwell in-

a stump of all thoughts,

a shriveling knob for a tongue

an empty cage for a mouth.


I gather my teeth and my needles

and I stab my story into cotton

for my sister to feed with her tears

and our joined blood to break out.


From 4 to 10 November, Peony Moon’s contents will deal with sexual violence
and rape and may be triggering to some people. 
If you would like to show your solidarity please join us on Twitter (@PoetsandArtists).


Related Articles:

40 Reasons we still need feminism.

From Philomela by Gill McEvoy, more Philomela inspired poems can be found here:

Protest Against Rape: Monday.

Poets & Artists Against Rape Protest (


3 thoughts on “Against Rape: Philomela

  1. Pingback: Poetry: What a strange thief | Trauma and Dissociation

  2. Pingback: Alone – Survivor Poetry | Trauma and Dissociation

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