Black girl power

As it turns out, since 1996 April is the national poetry month in the US and this means that there are all kinds of related events (such as poetry readings, sales, book signings or all of those combined) to be found everywhere. Yesterday I went to one of those in a bookstore just off the Emory University campus entrance – and it was great fun. The event in question was a poetry reading by Nagueyalti Warren, who is an acclaimed poet in her own right but she also lectures at Emory on African American literature and recently edited an anthology of Africana women’s poetry titled Temba Tupu! – which is swahili for “walking naked”. This collection ended up being the centerpiece of the evening, with her reading some 20 different poems from the book. And again, as could be expected, white male population was massively underrepresented among the small but very friendly audience.

The collection is great, covering in some 700 pages enormous swaths of time and space – from Queen of Sheeba to American contemporary hip-hop poetry. I include a couple of the poems here, but there is no way for me to convey the experience of having them performed by a confident, spirited black woman in front of an enthusiastic audience in unashamed, thick Georgian accent – it was quite something.

Prayer for the Nineties Woman and the Natural Woman Too – by Tamara Madison

These iron-pumping, track-jogging, Jazzercise-stepping, food-starved, anorexia-nervous, bulimia-bitten, thyroid-thumped, lipo-sucked, cosmetically-cut, electrolycized, bikini-clad women with their cropped shoulders, propped balloon-breast and seiftly-searched spines can kiss my café au lait, never-girdled, swivel-hipped, untamed behind that rumbles with its own rhythm, five foot eight, 200 pound, strech-mark strumming, AAA grade, no artificial flavours, sweeteners or preservatives, 100% natural woman entire ass.

Amen.

miss rosie – lucille clifton

when i watch you
wrapped up like garbage
sitting, surrounded by the smell
of too old potato peels
or
when i watch you
in your old man’s shoes
with the little toe cut out
sitting, waiting for your mind
like next week’s grocery
i say
when i watch you
you wet brown bag of a woman
who used to be the best looking gal in georgia
used to be called the Georgia Rose
i stand up
through your destruction
i stand up

For Willyce – Pat Parker

When i make love to you
i try
…..with each stroke of my tongue
……….to say
……….i love you
to tease
……….i love you
to hammer
……….i love you
to melt
……….i love you

and your sounds drift down
…..oh god!
…..oh jesus!
……….and i think
……………here it is, some dude’s
……………getting credit for what
a woman
has done
again.

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