Highlighting Black culture, women’s movement
By Terri Schlichenmeyer | OW Contributor
You have a story to tell.
It's not a long one, but you like to think of yourself as a person of few words anyhow. So why not see how others tell their tales in verse, in form, in total, and with great meaning. Take a look at these new poetry books...
Black culture and the women's movement feature heavily in the poems of Anastacia-Reneé in her new collection, “Side Notes from the Archivist” (Amistad, 2023).
Beginning in the 1980s with “a badrillion girl bands & boy bands & big group bands,” this book looks at life in “retroflect” from a middle-schooler's point of view – which feels quite nostalgic, until the author reaches adulthood in her narrative. From there, the collection reads like a list of “episodes” of a TV show, tales of love of self and others, Black queer life, and a surprisingly overwhelming sense of power to round up the book.
“Side Notes from the Archivist” is a book for older teens and adults only.
When you pick up a copy of “No Sweet Without Brine” by Cynthia Manick (Amistad, 2023), you'll see that the title tells you everything you need to know: this book will make you smile with bits of gentle poetry that'll suddenly sneak up on you and smack you with the vinegar of reality.
In this random-not-random collection, you'll find an “Ode to JET Magazine,” an out-loud musing on parental love, and a list of “Fears and Questions.” There's advice for Black girls in this book; advice on living a good life despite disrespectful (and unnecessary) words from a doctor; musings on movies, celebrities, history; being a woman in today's world; and dealing with racism that borders on ridiculousness.
Check it out first, but “No Sweet Without Brine” is a book that might fit for readers ages 15 to adult.
And finally, there's no better time to introduce your 3-to-6-year-old to poetry than today, and “The Knowing” by Ani DiFranco (Penguin, 2023) may be a great start.
This is a book about a very young girl who has a story to tell. She has color in her hair and skin but that's not who she is. She has many favorite belongings, foods she prefers, games she loves to play, songs she likes to sing, a family, and a village she's lived in all her life. What's important is that she has “The Knowing,” which is “underneath all that I know,” she says.
This book takes a little getting used-to, but poetry lovers may cherish it. Young readers are never exactly clued in on “The Knowing” but artwork by Julia Mathew gives them imagery that can help parents to spark imagination and spirituality.
If these poetry books don't quite fit what you're looking for, then get yourself to your favorite library or bookstore and let them find for you the book you need. Rhyme, not rhyme all the time, that's fine but not needed, not heeded, not conceited. Don't you want to glory in a poem story?