My Reentry to Poetry

Staff PicksMartin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library

My Reentry to Poetry

This year I set out to read genres that I’m not drawn to. The list includes mysteries, horror, and poetry. My introduction to poetry was in grade school, and I was not impressed; I just couldn’t understand the deeper meaning behind the metaphors, and it was not enjoyable. Now, far removed from grade school I’m setting out to re-discover the genre.

Homie by Danez Smith
The name and show stopping lime green cover piqued my interest right away. Homie was the first poetry collection I’ve read since grade school and it calmed my nerves about the genre. Smith's poems about friendship, being Black, and queerness are refreshing; they create scenes where tender intimate unspoken moments become so clear that it makes you say “I think of my best friend” or “Whew! I’ve been there.”

1919 by Eve Ewing
In 1922, the federal government funded a report, The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot, to dissect the 1919 race riots in Chicago. The purpose of the report was to uncover the causes of the riot and how to prevent it from happening again. The amazing, intelligent, and all-around superstar Eve Ewing wrote 1919 as an introduction to this topic -- and hopefully to spur further research by the readers. What impresses me about Ewing’s writing is that every word, quote, and image she includes in this collection has a purpose. It's deliberate; there is no fluff or filler anywhere. My favorite poem is "Sightseers." Ewing eloquently calls out lukewarm people, the people who purposely choose to divert their eyes and ignore the evil that is around them. Thinking back on the past presidency, actually all of history, there are many sightseers.

Magical Negro by Morgan Parker
This collection spoke right to my Black millennial girl heart. Never have I connected with a something so deep as the poem: “Two White girls in the African Braid Shop on Marcy and Fulton.” Parker put her stream of consciousness and the interactions that break that stream in that poem, and it brought back many memories for me. This collection is absolutely magnificent.

A Fortune for Your Disaster by Hanif Abdurraqib
If I knew what this collection was about beforehand I would not have read it. I couldn't help but feel sad after the first 25 pages. Abdurraqib in this collection explores subjects like sorrow and grief, and loss is a hard subject to read about, especially after the year we all have had. This collection made me reflect on all that I have lost -- my loved ones, the loss of a place or a special time in my life.

Finna by Nate Marshall
One thing about me is that I love reading books in the African American Vernacular English (AAVE). There is beauty in AAVE and the way we feel at home with the people we speak it with. Marshall writes like he is speaking to me, not at me. His poems touching on masculinity, Chicago, and our language makes me feel at ease.