Poetry | soft magic. & Questions for Ada

Hey everyone! At the end of my review of salt. by Nayyirah Waheed, I listed a bunch of contemporary poets and expressed my keen interest in reading their work in the near future. Poets – Upile Chisala and Ijeoma Umebinyuo were on that list and I finally purchased their collections (for my birthday last year) and enjoyed them at the beginning of this year. Below are mini reviews of their respective poetry collections.

(this is African Book Addict!’s 100th post by the way!)

soft magic. by Upile Chisala

Date Read: January 7th 2017

Published: September 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 122

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

soft magic. is the debut collection of prose and poetry by Malawian writer, Upile Chisala. This book explores the self, joy, blackness, gender, matters of the heart, the experience of Diaspora, spirituality and most of all, how we survive. soft magic. is a shared healing journey.

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

soft magic. is a decent collection, Upile (who is a young storyteller and ‘artivist’ from Malawi) has done well. I liked that soft magic. was healing and self-helpish, but this collection is more of a 2.5 stars rating, for me. It’s hard to rate and review a poetry collection you aren’t really fond of, because poetry is so personal to the poet and his/her journey – who am I to have an opinion on anyone’s journey?

This collection could have benefitted from more editing- the typos were quite annoying to spot. I hate to compare (especially since Upile recently went on a rant on Twitter about how discouraging it can be when people compare African writers to Chimamanda Adichie) but in my opinion, some of the poems felt like a knock-off from ‘salt.’ Also, I felt Upile overused the word ‘darling’ in this collection. I rolled by eyes so hard at every poem (which is about 80% of them) where ‘darling’ appeared; there are so many other words of endearment that could have been used in this collection. On a lighter note, I do appreciate how pro-black this collection is. The poems that expressed Upile’s unapologetic pride for her heritage and blackness were the most powerful.

My favorite poems:

being this ebony.
having this name.
carrying this language in my mouth.
there were times when I only wanted
to blend in
to sit unnoticed,
un-special,
but blending in is fading out

 

here we are,
black and in love with ourselves
and they spite us for it

Even though this short poetry collection is very pro-black, I wouldn’t highly recommend it. I just didn’t find the poems compelling or wholesome. Like I stated before – it is difficult to rate and review a poetry collection, because poetry is very personal to the poet and his/her journey. But you never know – give this collection a try, we all have different tastes! Upile recently published a new collection called Nectar, which I hope is a bit more polished than soft magic. I might purchase Nectar in the near future but until then, I will continue to enjoy Upile’s thoughtful commentary on Twitter and her lovely photos on Instagram.

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.

Purchase soft magic. on Amazon


Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Date Read: January 27th 2017

Published: August 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 216

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

The artistry of Questions for Ada defies words, embodying the pain, the passion, and the power of love rising from the depths of our souls.  Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poetry is a flower that will blossom in the spirit of every reader as she shares her heart with raw candor.  From lyrical lushness to smoky sensuality to raw truths, this tome of transforming verse is the book every woman wants to write but can’t until the broken mirrors of their lives have healed. In this gifted author’s own words—“I am too full of life to be half-loved.”  A bold celebration of womanhood.

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

THIS collection right here is pure gold. Questions for Ada by Nigerian poet – Ijeoma Umebinyuo, is full of strength, vulnerability and pride. Every word in these poems is heavy with meaning and purpose. These poems show you that all your emotions are valid and must be felt. Many poetry collections published nowadays feel lazy and words just seem to be thrown onto the pages. But Questions for Ada is a collection that was carefully crafted with love and full awareness of self. I’ve dog-eared sooo many of the pages in this book because the poems truly resonated with me. I found myself reflecting after reading a couple of poems at a time. I love when a piece of writing makes you reflect on your life and society and allows you to think about them critically. Ijeoma did the damn thing with this poetry collection!

My favorite poems:

Your mother was your first mirror.
tell me,
didn’t she carry herself well enough
to make you feel like a God?
(pg. 16)

Freedom-

Your feminism
wears a wrapper,
cooks for her husband
changed her surname
(pg 33)

you are not alive
to please the aesthetic
of colonized eye
(pg. 117)

You asked your father
how you should say your name.
He said if they cannot say your name
then they must try,
but you will not soften it,
you will not break the magic apart,
you will not be ashamed of it.
(pg. 160)

 

Questions for Ada –

Ada, are you in love? Yes.

Is being in a relationship hard work? Yes

Do you write love poems for your lover?

Every day.

Does you lover believe in you?

Yes, but sometimes I fear my lover does not

comprehend her light.

What do you do on those days?

I bathe her, I play some Jazz,

I fed her, I weep for her.

Describe her in a sentence.

Her eyes carry strength,

her words scratch, she speaks love.

Ada, are you in love? Yes.

Is being in a relationship hard work? Yes.

Who is your lover? Myself.

(pg. 78)

If I could quote all the poems in this collection, I would – but I have to respect the writer’s copyright terms! Please purchase the book to enjoy the rest! A couple of weeks ago, AFREADA featured Questions for Ada in their weekly #AFREADS recommendations on Instagram and used my short review from Goodreads as the caption for the post. I was elated to see that Ijeoma appreciated my words (which don’t even do this collection’s excellence justice).

I had to screenshot this before it got deleted 🙂

Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo is beautiful work. I like to believe her target audience is women of color/ black women in Africa and the Diaspora; the poems speak on blackness, womanhood, relationships, brokenness, Africa, Diaspora, heritage, loving thyself and others. But I wholeheartedly recommend this collection for everyone to experience these poems, even if you aren’t a woman or a person of color – you would still appreciate Ijeoma’s artistry and even learn something about yourself. We’re only in the month of May and I’ve already re-read the whole collection for a second time; I plan on re-visiting and mulling over certain poems throughout the year.

If you don’t plan on reading many poetry this year, please endeavor to add Questions for Ada to your 2017 reads! And if you’re not really a fan of poetry, be assured that this collection will make you understand the beauty of poetry, as a pure literary form.

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

Purchase Questions for Ada on Amazon

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

Date Read:  February 22nd 2017

Published: February 14th 2017

Publisher: Tin House Books

Pages: 80

 

The Blurb

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé uses political and pop-cultural references as a framework to explore 21st century black American womanhood and its complexities: performance, depression, isolation, exoticism, racism, femininity, and politics. The poems weave between personal narrative and pop-cultural criticism, examining and confronting modern media, consumption, feminism, and Blackness.

This collection explores femininity and race in the contemporary American political climate, folding in references from jazz standards, visual art, personal family history, and Hip Hop. The voice of this book is a multifarious one: writing and rewriting bodies, stories, and histories of the past, as well as uttering and bearing witness to the truth of the present, and actively probing toward a new self, an actualized self. This is a book at the intersections of mythology and sorrow, of vulnerability and posturing, of desire and disgust, of tragedy and excellence.

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé was one of the top poetry collections released this year that I was eager to read. I have been following Parker for a while and I love this short documentary (from 2015) that explores a bit of Parker’s life as a writer and her relationship with Brooklyn, NY. I’m simply a fan of any black woman writer with a unique, quirky character – hence my love for Morgan Parker.

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé is more of a 3.5 stars book for me though. Initially, I wished Beyoncé wasn’t Parker’s muse because it made the poems that were named after her (Beyoncé) seem trivial and nonsensical. BUT, after meditating on select poems, I realize Parker uses the poems as political commentary on the criticism Beyoncé has received over the years, and how these criticisms spill over into how society views black women as a whole.

This collection explores Black American womanhood, performance, oppression, loneliness, power, sexuality and mental health – but in a whiny way. I like to believe Parker wrote this collection targeting (black) women, millennials and true poetry lovers as her audience. To be honest, only a few of these poems will actually stick with me. I think I’d love this collection more if they were read out to me, maybe at a reading and with some background to the randomness of it all. Don’t get me wrong, these poems are well-thought-out and layered with lots of (black) pop culture references, but the wordiness of it all could go over your head if your mind isn’t alert while reading.

Above is a screenshot (from my Kindle app) of one of the poems that’s oh-so relevant to the times, which I especially loved –13 Ways of Looking at a Black Girl’. The haphazard display of the words spilled unto the pages, in and of itself, is telling of how society regards black women. Are words like ‘thick, diva, nappy, flawless, loud, sex, wifey, chocolate, sassy, carefree, strong, exotic, slut’ accurate depictions of how people view black women? From whose lens are black women regarded in these ways? (please click on the image above to get a closer glimpse of the poem).

I’m in awe of the artistry of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, but most poems may seem abstract and meaningless to the oblivious reader of the times. I wouldn’t highly recommend this collection to anyone who isn’t a hardcore poetry fiend, but I personally admire this body of work for its eccentric nature.

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.

Purchase There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé on Amazon

The January Children by Safia Elhillo

!important;margin:0!important;" />Date Read: December 14th 2016

Published: March 1st 2017

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press

Pages: 80

 

 

 

The Blurb

The January Children depicts displacement and longing while also questioning accepted truths about geography, history, nationhood, and home. The poems mythologize family histories until they break open, using them to explore aspects of Sudan’s history of colonial occupation, dictatorship, and diaspora. Several of the poems speak to the late Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafez, who addressed many of his songs to the asmarani—an Arabic term of endearment for a brown-skinned or dark-skinned person. Elhillo explores Arabness and Africanness and the tensions generated by a hyphenated identity in those two worlds.

No longer content to accept manmade borders, Elhillo navigates a new and reimagined world. Maintaining a sense of wonder in multiple landscapes and mindscapes of perpetually shifting values, she leads the reader through a postcolonial narrative that is equally terrifying and tender, melancholy and defiant.

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Safia Elhillo is a Sudanese-American poet based in the U.S and I believe The January Children gives readers some insight into what it’s like to be Sudanese and an American. In this collection, the narrator is constantly grappling with her complex identities and it’s evident in poems like,

republic of the sudan ministry of interior passport & immigration general directorate alien from sudanese origin passcard‘ (yes, this is the title of the poem):

at the khartoum office a veiled woman made the card in microsoft paint told me my arabic was [not bad for a foreigner you can barely hear the accent] i board the plane with grandma’s voice crackling through the phone [come home again soon] my blue passport made me American place of birth maryland usa

& in the months since my last visit syrup settle back to coat my r’s i am ambiguous browngirl

i feel american

& in new york [but your english is so good you can barely hear the accent]

mama still speaks to me in arabic but we eat with fork & knife we play adbelhalim but mostly motown to remind mama of those swaying eighties nights in the garden before it turned to dust before the old country crumbles & mama came here to give me the blue passport & last time i was home a soldier stopped the car asked where i was from laughed when i said here

The narrator has conflicting ideas of home, belonging, family, immigration, perceptions of beauty and so much more. All of these issues are juxtaposed with the narrator’s obsession with Egyptian musician – Abdelhalim Hafez, and his provoking lyrics. For most of this collection, the narrator obsesses over Hafez’s skin color, his perceptions of beauty and his singing voice. I found it weird how the narrator was fascinated with this famous Arabic musician who has been dead since 1977; but she finds meaning in her fascination with Hafez and confides in him on the things that keep her up at night – like not feeling Sudanese enough and/or feeling lost.

The January Children is a very unique poetry collection. Most of the poems lack punctuations, so it takes a while to read each poem to decipher full sentences and the meanings of them. Every word (especially the few Arab words and their translations) in this collection gave the poems profound meaning – which was interesting, yet a bit overwhelming as it takes a while to understand what some of the poems are actually about. Hints of magical realism in some poems provided sprinkles surprise and added to the slightly daunting nature of the collection (for me).

What I appreciated most about this collection was that I got some insight into African-Arab life and how African-Arabs perceive other Africans and Arabs. When I read Minaret by Sudanese writer- Leila Aboulela, I yearned (but to no avail) for commentary on the realities of being African-Arab. I’m glad this collection shed some light into this complex, very unique identity through the tensions the narrator faces. Even though The January Children is complicated and not the easiest poetry collection to read, Elhillo shows immense talent of capturing emotion in a somewhat abstract way. I think I prefer seeing and listening to Safia Elhillo performing her poems. From all the YouTube videos I’ve watched of her performing at various events, it’s absolutely breathtaking and inspiring to see and hear Elhillo speak her words, with mighty conviction.

NOTE: Reading the Forward of this collection by Kwame Dawes is imperative if you want to totally understand and appreciate this collection.

Thanks to Netgalley via University of Nebraska Press for this e-ARC. The January Children will be published and in stores in 3 days! March 1st 2017 🙂

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.

Purchase The January Children on Amazon

As the Crow Flies by Véronique Tadjo

veroniqueDate Read: October 27th 2016

Published: 2001

Publisher: Heinemann (African Writers Series)

Pages: 106

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

An illicit love affair that turns sour is the starting point in this lyrical and moving exploration of the human heart.

Véronique Tadjo weaves together a rich  tapestry of voices to tell stories of parting and return, suffering, healing and desire.

Like a bird in flight, the reader travels across a borderless landscape composed of tales of everyday existence, news reports, allegories and ancestral myths, becoming aware in the course of the journey of the interconnection of individual lives. A new consciousness of the links between self and other, today’s society and that of future generations is revealed as the key to creating a more just world and more understanding and fulfilling relationships, for ‘love is a story that we never stop telling’. 

Translated from French by Wangūi wa Goro.

 

Review– ★★★★ (4 stars)

As the Crow Flies was originally written in French by Véronique Tadjo who was born in Paris and raised in Côte d’Ivoire – a Francophone, West African country. Kenyan academic, writer and translator – Wangūi wa Goro, who contributed to African Love Stories: an anthology and also translated Ngūgi wa Thiong’o’s novel – Matigari, (which I loved!) translated this work of art as well. I’m grateful to Wangūi wa Goro, because without her superb skills of interpreting and transforming this work into English, some of us would really be missing out on some awesome texts!

But I have to admit – this novella is not for everyone. On the first page, as if to caution the reader, Tadjo writes: “Indeed, I too would have loved to write one of those serene stories with a beginning and an end. But as you know only too well, it is never like that.” With that, I knew As the Crow Flies would be different.

Some readers may have issues with the format of this book, which is full of fragmentation and changing points of view between several voices. It’s made up of several (interconnected) poems, prose and observations. I read this novella as if I was on the back of a bird in the air (a crow, if you may), watching various people and situations in their various settings – in Abidjan (the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire) and anonymous Western countries. I believe writers would absolutely love the unique, heartfelt, lyrical anecdotes Tadjo spills onto the pages. It’s actually difficult to review this book since it sporadically touches on many different issues, like: desire, homesickness, (unrequited) love, immigration, poverty, privilege, and so much more. But almost anything and everything that can be humanly felt and observed, are portrayed in this book.

Some of my favorite anecdotes / poems/ observations:

XLVI

I need to feel the heat and sweat running down my back, feel warm nights humming with insects, the dust and the mud. At home, life sprouts everywhere. You have nowhere to hide. You can never forget that there is still much to be done.

(pg. 62)

 

I especially loved this one below:

LIV

I think of my country, far away, and my eyes open beyond space.

In this vast city, words travel fast. I am bombarded with ideas. I see myself in that large conference room listening keenly to writers from Africa – Angola, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria… One of the speakers proclaims:

‘It is our duty to understand our place in the history of humanity. An African literature cannot exist until the day we liberate ourselves from the arrogant criticism of the West.’

(pg. 72) 

 

LXIX

I remember. A day like no other. The air was mild. I had not eaten breakfast; just had a cup of coffee and my belly was empty.

I remember. His scent filled my nostrils. His sweat made my mouth salty. I lapped up his force and energy, and discovered how famished my desire was…

(pg. 87)

As the Crow Flies is a super short novella – it’s about 106 pages. I would advise readers to devour it in one sitting in order to experience, observe and feel everything this book has to offer at once. Thanks to school work, it took me over a month to complete it. But I’m glad I pushed through and finished it despite the discombobulated format which was initially confusing but truly wonderful by the time I finished reading.

With the increasing popularity of contemporary African novels, I feel like lovers of African literature are forgetting about the books of the African Writers Series, which were published since 1962 by Heinemann. Books in this series have been translated into English from French, Zulu, Swahili, Gikuyu, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Luganda, Arabic, Sesotho. Yes, some of the books in this series may be printed in (silly) small fonts; yes, some books in this series may have unappealing book covers. But books of the African Writers Series are timeless and will always be true African classics, just like As the Crow Flies.

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

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Purchase As the Crow Flies by Véronique Tadjo on Amazon

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!