5 Women Poets of Color to Read Right Away
There’s a quotation believed to be engraved on the tombstone of famed abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock that encapsulates how dangerous and vital poetry is. It reads:
“Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity. Without them there would be little worth saving.”
Poetry won’t save lives. At its best, poetry can shore up the way we live.
The magic of poetry lies in the possibilities it presents. A poem can get you thinking about something you’ve never thought about before or thinking differently about something you’ve thought your whole life. When I read poems penned by poets like Nayyirah Waheed, Warsaw Shire, Elizabeth Alexander, Audre Lorde, Marilyn Nelson, the list goes on an on, my breathing slows and my consciousness is opened up and held at attention by stories (my stories, your stories, our stories) of lost, longing, loneliness, resistance, resilience, joy and love.
Poetry holds space for us to pause and ponder the present and dream up new and more nuanced possibilities of living. There’s always an invitation lurking between the lines. Read slowly, then read it again.
Poetry asks us to sometimes resolve the unresolvable and to think through and beyond the hard things. A good poem will bring you to a place of deep and deliberate contemplation about the things that were, things that are and the things that will be.
Ask (then thank) Nayyirah Waheed.
i lost a whole continent.
a whole continent from my memory.
unlike all otherhyphenated americans
my hyphen is made of blood. feces. bone.
when africa says hello
my mouth is a heartbreak.
because i have nothing in my tongue
to answer her.
i do not know how to say hello to my mother.
-african american ii | Nayyirah Waheed
From here, the possibilities are endless.
Do yourself a favor this weekend — get into some poetry. Do it for yourself. Do it for your loved ones. Do it for the culture. Do it for humanity. Just do it.