Praise for this collection:
We budget for someone to look after our baby…
The transaction of love and care, the split inside, the ache,
so that I can go to work, the un-named cost of wanting both.
I love this raging, angry, funny, and often beautiful and tender book. Many of us will recognise ourselves amongst these pages as the poet navigates the tricky waters between cleaning the toilet, the children, her partner and herself; and often in that order.
It is also a kind of wry love song to the domestic and to the realities of love itself- hugely enjoyable.
In House Work Khadija Rouf navigates the difficult territory of life after childbirth. She explores the ambivalence women often feel about housework and childcare — work which is traditionally women’s work, and which is universally unpaid or underpaid, unvalued or undervalued — and poses the question, crucial to all couples, of how to negotiate gender roles with a partner you love.
Rouf is a passionate advocate for truth, fairness and equality, and her frustration (and sometimes fury) blazes out of these searingly honest, full-hearted and intimate poems.
Every woman will see something of themselves in this book.
Don’t be misled by the title, to read House Work is to discover surprises on every page, sifted from mundane chores and home’s hidden corners. These poems range across the tender and erotic, painfully beautiful and moving, and charged with womanhood, all carefully choreographed together. From Amazonian hoovering or a fridge singing in Reykjavik to ‘Us, making the sounds of trees, trapping / animal calls beneath our fingernails’, Khadija Rouf offers us exquisite imagery and memorable lines throughout. A stunning collection.
First poem in the collection:
addressed to my lover
You take me by surprise, you seeking my hands,
well hidden under sleeves, safe from intruders.
Seeking my hands, stroking my fingers,
placing my hand on your face, closing your eyes,
opening your eyes, blue within blue.
Kissing my palms and between my fingers.
Your hands, masculine, cool marble,
beneath skin, the turquoise cables of your veins –
electric – and scarlet, like dogwood canes in winter.
Your skin, diamond latticed and warm.
You cover my eyes, trace the contour of my lips,
map my cheekbones, languid, lingering,
cupped, palm to palm, fingers locked,
and I am on the brink of something new.
Read a guardian article about Selma James here – all profits are being donated to Wages for Housework