It’s hard to talk about a powerful piece of work. It’s hard to give a comprehensive overview of it while also trying to impart the effect it had on me while reading. Such is the case with Nayyirah Waheed’s collection of poems, salt.
I call it a powerful piece of work because of how strongly I connected to it. It’s as if she was speaking to me, as if we had lived the same life and had the same experiences. Many facets of my life and personality is expressed in Waheed’s poems: my love of nature and art; my willingness to write; being Black and female; being an immigrant. It’s one of few books I’ve read and seen myself reflected back at me and for that I appreciate and treasure this collection of poems.
I must also thank Darkowaa, whose wonderful review of salt. drove me to pick it up and give it a try. I don’t regularly read poetry. In fact, I don’t like poems. My high-school AP classes scarred me in that regard. But I liked the poem Darkowaa highlighted in her review. It’s one of my favorites in the collection. Here it is:
Weekend Reads is a weekly discussion on a variety of topics. Usually after this introduction, I would post a topic or question and then my reflection or response to it. Obviously, I’ve chosen to forgo a topic/question for this weekend. Instead, I will post a book haul not because it’s an easy post to do…
Well, yes, that is part of the reason, actually. I woke up this morning to the realization that February is almost done. This week and two measley days after that is all we have left of February. It’s as if it had no middle. Just a start and a finish. Along with that sudden realization, I also noticed that I did none of what I planned to do, blog-wise, in February, which was to post a few reviews and also a Wishes for My TBR post, which I do every month. What happened?
Well, I was busy with work and stressed from personal worries which drained me and made me not want to blog or sometimes read. That set me back. I don’t know when I’ll be back on track but for now, here’s February’s book haul.
Who knew this classic tale would excite me so? Who knew that an epic poem could grip my attention for the majority of its length? I didn’t expected this story to be as interesting as it was and I’m glad I read it.
Jason and the Argonauts, also called Argonautica, by Apollonius of Rhodes is an epic poem that tells the adventures of Jason and his companions as they sail to fetch the Golden Fleece from King Aeëtes of Colchis.
Jason’s uncle, the Greek King Pelias, contrived the plan when he saw Jason at his banquet. An oracle had told him that someone wearing a single sandal would kill him and Jason had shown up wearing one sandal (he lost the other in some mud when he carried an old woman (Hera in disguise) across a river). To get rid of Jason, Pelias sends him on the impossible mission to get the Golden Fleece.
I was surprised when I heard of Maya Angelou‘s passing and a bit shaken as well. Maya Angelou, one of the coolest writers ever died on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Earlier that day, I was reading a passage on Angelou in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey while commuting to work. After reading, I reflected on what I knew of Angelou’s life and thought to myself, “She sure lived a long and eventful life.” So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at work and learned that she passed.
I was introduced to Angelou by my mother’s bookshelf. She had a copy of Angelou’s I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings and I attempted to read it when I was younger since the adults spoke of it so much. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I was able to finish it. In high school, I was introduced to Angelou’s poems and she quickly became one of my favorite poets (I don’t have many). I love the rhythm of her poems and I enjoy reading them aloud, listening to my voice ride the poem’s flow.
My favorite poems by her are “Phenomenal Woman” and “Million Man March”. “Phenomenal Woman” is a poem brimming with confidence. Whenever I read it, I unconsciously straighten my back and thrust my way into the world, confident in my femininity. “Million Man March” is a powerful one. It reminds us of our dark history and reading it aloud, I can almost hear the slaves’ dragging feet and the pull of chains. It nudges us, the Black race, to keep pushing forward, no matter what may be thrown at us. It, too, gives me confidence.
I admire Angelou. She will be sorely missed. My fondest memory of her was when she spontaneously broke out into a rap on Arsenio Hall‘s show. I’ve included a clip of it above. Moments such as these, and, more importantly, her activism, are what endear Maya Angelou to many of varied backgrounds.
On Thursday, January 9, Amiri Baraka died in Newark, N.J. He was 79. Amiri Baraka was one of the greats in African American literature. He was a writer—poet and dramatist. He was a voice of the Black Arts movement. A voice who spoke out against the injustices done to his people and imbued his works with his anger towards Black suffering and oppression. Like those who choose to speak the truth or speak truthfully about their experiences and observations, he was tagged as controversial. Sometimes he was penalized for his thoughts. But such actions did not deter him from continuing to reveal the truth and present reality.
I was first introduced to Baraka in college when I took an English seminar course that focused on African American literature. We studied a few of his work including the popular play, Dutchman, and poems such as “A Poem for Black Hearts”, “SOS”, and “In Memory of Radio”. My favorite was “Black Art”. I’ll admit, I’m not a great fan of poetry but I appreciate Baraka’s work because his passion is readily apparent. His poems stir you and change you while you read. By its end, your thoughts will be leaping wildly, trying to keep up with the storm of emotions thrown at you. I have included above a video of Baraka reading his poem, “Someone Blew Up America”. It’s one of those poems that expose truths, rile people to action or leave them unsettled, and cause an artist to be labeled controversial.