Mazzy’s Musings: Veils, Halos & Shackles

Mazzy’s Musings: Veils, Halos & Shackles … restoring women’s dignity, autonomy and self-worth

‘Rape is not only a sexual crime; it is an abuse of strength and power, which strips its victims of their dignity, autonomy and self-worth. Those who use their strength and power to manipulate and abuse others, in any form, rape the collective soul of our humanity.’ Catherine Sercombe (now writing as Mazzy Adams)

That quote is from my personal statement, included in the story behind Special Clearance/Exposed, my poetic contribution to Veils, Halos & Shackles, an international collection of works by over 180 poets from around the world.

In her recent blog post, editor, former psychology academic and writer, Nola Passmore, reflected on her contribution to Veils, Halos & Shackles and explained the background to the anthology. Nola (who is a paragon of literary encouragement and a playful wag) also announced the first of our VH&S online launch competitions by asking entrants to comment on a protest poem or protest song that has resonated with them personally. As I write this follow-on blog, a song most poignant in subject, influence and timing for me personally comes to mind: ‘I Am Woman’ by Helen Reddy.

When the Australian singer-songwriter’s iconic anthem was released as a single in 1972, it sold over a million copies. When the United Nations declared 1975 to be International Women’s Year, they chose Reddy’s song as the theme and established 1976-1985 as the Decade for Women.

In 1976, I commenced full-time employment as a junior bank officer with one of Australia’s leading commercial banks. On my first day, my heart sang and my head rang with my recruitment officer’s enthusiastic assurances: the national hierarchy wished to ameliorate the existing management gender imbalance. Gender equality was the catchphrase of the day. Because I was female and I had outstanding academic results I’d been selected along with several male recruits for a rapid training and advancement program. Local branch management had been advised.

Harsh, dark, reality eclipsed the daydream. As the new junior, I was the floor that senior staff walked on. As a female, I was a doormat for dirty boots and a carpet to cavil. I endured four miserable years before I escaped to a very different type of employment.

In 2012, forty years after ‘I Am Woman’ topped the charts, I penned my reflections on those negative experiences into the first draft of Special Clearance/Exposed, later crafting its current format as a blended poem which connects the abuse of power with rape.

In 2016, forty years after the United Nations Decade for Women began, Special Clearance/Exposed was published in Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression & Empowerment of Women. This landmark anthology, coordinated and edited by poets Charles Adès Fishman (United States) and Smita Sahay (India), and published by Kasva Press (Israel) has received excellent reviews and is now available for purchase from Amazon as a print book or e-book.


Although issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment are more readily addressed in the workplace today, the vulnerability of the weak in the hands of the powerful continues to darken and stain society in too many places worldwide. The fingers of physical, emotional, psychological and religious abuse still grasp the neck of nations, strangle the voice of protest and extinguish the breath of human kindness. But as my writing colleague, accomplished novelist, friend, co-conspirator and fellow VH&S contributor, Adele Jones blogged in her recent launch prelude, ‘One voice can inspire others to speak up. Over time, one voice can change the world.’


On Saturday 8 October 2016, Nola, Adele and I will host an online launch of Veils, Halos & Shackles on Facebook. The launch will be held from 11.00 am to 1.00 pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time). By logging on to the events page during that time, you can enjoy a poetic video presentation and podcasts of our poems, engage in interesting discussions, and enter competitions with prizes including books, a gift voucher, a metallic hummingbird bookmark and an hour of editing services. Selected competitions will extend into the next day, so you can still log on and contribute after the official close of the launch.

We would be delighted to have you join us. Every voice raised, any action taken that encourages, supports, guards or restores the safety, dignity, autonomy and self-worth of an individual is significant.

Please click here if you would like to view my visual presentation of Special Clearance/Exposed on YouTube.

Portrait Pen Circular


Online Launch Day update: Note: Competition opens about 11:45am Saturday 8th October 2016 Australian Eastern Standard Time and closes at midnight on Sunday 9th October 2016 AEST.


To enter the On-Line Launch Competition for your chance to win this metallic hummingbird bookmark, create or suggest an analogy or metaphor that exemplifies the message behind Veils, Halos & Shackles based on one or more of these facts about Hummingbirds:

  1. They are small, colourful birds with iridescent feathers.
  2. They have been observed chasing … hawks away from their territories.
  3. They hover and hum by rapidly flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern.
  4. They can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and upside down.

Example: It’s not the size of the bird in the fight, but the size of the fight in the bird that counts.

Post your answer as a comment. Don’t stress about being profound. The person who provides our favourite answer will win.

(Facts from