Poetry | bone & Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

Hey everyone! In my review of salt. by Nayyirah Waheed, I listed a bunch of contemporary poets and my keen interest to enjoy their works in the near future. Yrsa Daley-Ward and Warsan Shire were on that list and I finally read their collections (e-books) a couple of months ago.

Below are two mini reviews of the poetry collections by two popular poets grabbing peoples’ attention in 2016.

bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward 

boneDate Read: April 12th 2016

Published: June 2014

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 136

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

Bone. Visceral. Close to. Stark.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

bone is a brilliant collection of poems. I enjoyed reading the long poems in this collection, as they read like short stories and were packed with lots of suspense and emotion!

Most of the poems in bone have recurring themes of death, sex, family, relationships and Christianity. Yrsa Daley-Ward blends her West Indian (Jamaican) and West African (Nigerian) cultures beautifully in this collection, especially with her references to foods like Jollof rice, stereotypical Black woman mannerisms like eye-rolling and sucking of teeth etc.

Some of my favorite quotes:

Loving someone who hates themselves is a special kind of violence. A fight inside the bones. A war within the blood. (pg. 12)

 

If you were married to yourself could you stay with yourself? My house would be frightening and wild. (pg. 53)

Even though some of the poems read like short stories, there were healing elements to them that I really appreciated. The poems liberate you… They almost reminded me of – Nayyirah Waheed’s collection salt. bone definitely hit home and made me realize and appreciate how difficult and different peoples’ lives can be. This was an eye-opening read. Please don’t sleep on Ysra Daley-Ward!

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward on Amazon


Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire 

Warsan shire

Date Read: March 16th 2016

Published: December 2011

Publisher: Flipped Eye Publishing

Pages: 38

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

What elevates Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, what gives the poems their disturbing brilliance, is Warsan Shire’s ability to give simple, beautiful eloquence to the veiled world where sensuality lives in the dominant narrative of Islam; reclaiming the more nuanced truths of earlier times – as in Tayeb Salih’s work – and translating to the realm of lyric the work of the likes of Nawal El Saadawi. As Rumi said, “Love will find its way through all languages on its own”; in Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth – Warsan’s debut pamphlet, we witness the unearthing of a poet who finds her way through all preconceptions to strike the heart directly.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

Somali-Brit poet – Warsan Shire’s writing is biting, abrupt and shocking. Most of the poems in Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth have recurring themes of immigrant life, being a refugee, war, death, sex, relationships, womanhood, Islam (almost similar to the themes in Somali-Brit – Diriye Osman’s short stories collection, Fairytales For Lost Children). The first set of poems in this collection were pretty wild and literally had my heart racing. When I finished reading this collection back in March, I craved more because this collection was way too short. I’m definitely looking forward to Shire’s new collection of poems entitled, Extreme Girlhood- which is set to be published this Fall!

Some of my favorite quotes:

Conversations About Home (at the Deportation Center)

…No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. I’ve been carrying the old anthem in my mouth for so long that there’s no space for another song, another tongue or another language.

I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome and my beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning with the shame of not belonging, my body is longing. I am the sin of memory and the absence of memory. I watch the news and my mouth becomes a sink full of blood. The lines, the forms, the people at the desks, the calling cards, the immigration officer, the looks on the street, the cold settling deep into my bones, the English classes at night, the distance I am from home. But Alhamdulilah of all of this is better than the scent of a woman completely on fire, or a truckload of men who look like my father, pulling out my teeth and nails, or fourteen men between my legs, or a gun, or a promise, or a lie, or his name, or his manhood in my mouth.

 

Birds

Sofia used pigeon blood on her wedding night.

Next day, over the phone, she told me

how her husband smiled when he saw the sheets, 

that he gathered them under his nose, 

closed his eyes and dragged his tongue

over the stain.

She mimicked his baritone, how he whispered

her name – Sofia, 

pure, chaste, untouched. 

We giggled over the static…

I knew Warsan Shire was a talented poet back in 2013 and was aware of all the accolades she’s been awarded over the years. Thanks to my 2016 Reading Goals to incorporate more poetry into my reading challenge, I decided to finally give Shire’s poetry a try and I must say – I’ve been blessed by her work!

After Beyoncé’s (visual) album – Lemonade was released back in April, I realized a lot of people were finally paying more attention to Warsan Shire’s amazing work. Before Beyoncé’s Lemonade album, I didn’t really hear people (more specifically- not fellow Africans) talk much about Warsan Shire. I made a Facebook status about this observation and it gathered quite a few comments:

IMG_3920

I respect that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to literary works, but I’ve realized that we (Africans) tend to only celebrate the celebrated. Once a big celebrity from the US or UK praises someone from our continent for their craft, all of a sudden we (Africans) start taking notice of the person and are suddenly proud to have them as African (whichever country they hail from). These are just my observations! Anyways, the Facebook post later inspired the four Nigerian women of Not Your African Cliché Podcast  to talk about Warsan Shire, Chimamanda Adichie, Beyoncé’s album Lemonade and the importance of us supporting artists from our continent. I was invited to join the ladies on the podcast to discuss these topics and so much more! Check out the short description of the episode below:

“Although late to the ‪#‎Lemonade dissection game, the ladies of NYAC discuss a less explored running theme in Beyonce’s last two albums – her collaborations with brilliant African writers; Chimamanda Adichie on self-titled Beyoncé and Warsan Shire on Lemonade. Joined by book blogger extraordinaire and longtime listener/supporter Darkowaa (@AwoDeee), we talk about our favorite tracks off the Lemonade album, the pros and cons of being featured in such high profile work, the limited visibility and reach African works of art have in Africa, and what it takes for African artistry to gain a wide following.”

Please listen to this episode if you have 59 minutes to spare! If you want to just dive right into the topics, you can start listening from 18 minutes 52 seconds – but I highly recommend you listen to the whole episode, it was a great discussion! Feel free to join the discussion with your comments! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Not Your African Cliché Podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud and follow them on Twitter (@NYACpodcast) as well!

All in all, I truly enjoyed and learned a lot from the works of Yrsa Daley-Ward (above on the left) and Warsan Shire (above on the right). Their poetry makes me proud to be a black woman. I’ll surely be purchasing the physical copies of these books to add to my bookshelf soon 🙂

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire on Amazon

salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

saltDate Read: October 2nd 2015

Published: September 2013

Publisher: Create Space Independent Publishing

Pages: 259

 

The Blurb

(no blurb)

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Who is Nayyirah Waheed? Where is she from? (I hear the Nigerians have claimed her already hahaa). These are the questions I’ve been asking myself and other lovers of her work ever since I finished this masterpiece called salt. I’ve searched almost everywhere on the internet, trying to figure out anything about her but there is absolutely no information on her. I guess this could be a good thing, so that Waheed’s work speaks for itself – and I must say, I was very fond of her beautiful way with words.

I’m not a big fan of poetry so I rarely indulge in it. But THIS book is a collection of words that can heal. salt is a super fast read, but the poems just make you sit and think. The poems gently speak on a mother’s love, knowing your worth, loving yourself, being kind/caring for yourself, immigration, mother Africa, colonization, black beauty and much more! This collection was one of my top 5 reads of last year and I will buy the paperback, just for keepsake because it is worth it! (salt. is usually on sale and sometimes free on Amazon Kindle, so keep an eye out for that if you don’t mind ebooks).

Below is one of my favorite poems from the collection:

 

i bleed

every month.

but

do not die.

how am i

not

magic

 

– lie (pg. 27)

After reading salt, I purchased Waheed’s second collection of poems which was published in 2014, entitled nejma. nejma wasn’t as refreshing and cohesive as salt, but nevertheless I believe Nayyirah Waheed has a gift with words. Definitely consider reading this collection of poems – it is full of original, brave, healing words. I promise, you will love yourself a little more after reading this!

Follow Nayyirah Waheed on Twitter for more excerpts from salt.@NayyirahWaheed

[There has been a new wave of talented poets taking the literary scene by storm. Some of these poets include: Warsan Shire, Alexandra Elle, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Phillip B. Williams, Ladan Osman, Rupi Kaur, Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Bilphena Yahwon(gold womyn), Upile Chisala just to name a few. I hope to enjoy some of these contemporary poets’ works in the future].

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

Purchase salt. on Amazon

National Poetry Month 2015 – 3 poems

National (USA) Poetry Month is slowly coming to an end! In honor of this month dedicated to poetry, I’ve decided to showcase some of my favorite poems.

I’m not a huge poetry fan, but below are three poems: (one each) African-American, Caribbean and African poems that I love. Hope you enjoy!

 

African-American poem

In 2008 during my freshman year of undergrad (Middlebury College), my first year seminar class was on Urban Chicago (shout out to Prof. Will Nash!). We learned a lot about Chicago and read a lot of literature from there as well, including the works of Richard Wright, Ida B. Wells and Gwendolyn Brooks. The poem below was my favorite from Brooks. It’s speaks volumes on society’s warped perceptions of beauty and colorism even among children. Enjoy!

 

The Ballad of Chocolate Mabbie by Gwendolyn Brooks

It was Mabbie without the grammar school gates.

And Mabbie was all of seven.

And Mabbie was cut from a chocolate bar.

And Mabbie thought life was heaven.

The grammar school gates were the pearly gates,

For Willie Boone went to school.

When she sat by him in history class

Was only her eyes were cool.

It was Mabbie without the grammar school gates

Waiting for Willie Boone.

Half hour after the closing bell

He would surely be coming soon.

Oh, warm is the waiting for joys, my dears!

And it cannot be too long.

Oh, pity the little poor chocolate lips

That carry the bubble of song!

Out came the saucily bold Willie Boone.

It was woe for our Mabbie now.

He wore like a jewel a lemon-hued lynx

With sand-waves loving her brow.

It was Mabbie alone by the grammar school gates.

Yet chocolate companions had she:

Mabbie on Mabbie with hush in the heart.

Mabbie on Mabbie to be.

 

GBrooksGwendolyn Brooks was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, professor, and lived in Chicago all her life. This poem was taken from her collection of poems: A Street in Bronzeville (1945).

 

 

 


 

Caribbean poem: Saint Lucia

The next poem is one I recently stumbled upon by Saint Lucia native, Derek Walcott. I loved it’s calmness and reassurance. Enjoy!

 

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

 

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

 

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

 

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

derekwalcottDerek Walcott is a Saint Lucian playwright and poet. In 1992 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, amongst other awards throughout his successful career. Source: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/love-after-love/ (accessed April 22nd 2015).

 

 

 


 

African poem: Uganda

My two friends from college – Harrison Kihonge, from Kenya and Motlatsi Nkhahle, from Lesotho used to call me ‘Lapobo’. It used to irritate me because I didn’t know whether ‘Lapobo’ was a compliment or an insult! I finally got them to tell me what ‘Lapobo’ meant and they told me it’s a name/term used in a poem they studied back at their respective United World College (UWC) high schools by Cliff Lubwa p’Chong. Enjoy!

 

The Beloved by Cliff Lubwa p’Chong

Lapobo,

Tall but not too tall,

Short but not too short,

Lapobo,

Her teeth are not as ash

Nor the colour of maize flour,

Her teeth are as white as fresh milk.

The whiteness of her teeth

When I think of her

Makes food drop from my hand.

Lapobo,

Black but not too black,

Brown but not too brown,

Her skin colour is just between black and brown.

Lapobo,

Her heels have no cracks,

Her palms are smooth and tender to touch,

Her eyes—Ho they can destroy anybody.

Lubwa p’Chong was a playwright and poet from Uganda. This poem can be read in a 1960’s anthology: Poems from East Africa edited by David Cook and David Rubadiri.

 I actually really love this poem! Now I know ‘Lapobo’ surely is not an insult. My friend Harrison Kihonge recently posted it on my Facebook wall, hence my access to the full poem.

 

What are some of your favorite African-American, Caribbean and/or African poems? Please do share!