Black Under by Ashanti Anderson

Black Under

Black Under by Ashanti Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You might not be ready for this book, cause I know I wasn’t. However, it’s here and this book is not going anywhere. Ashanti Anderson has done a truly remarkable job here. In a short book of 30 pages she has blown my mind. She is a master storyteller, phenomenal linguist, and artful creator in her wordsmithing. You cannot categorize her work. She cannot be fit into a box, and will likely shoot out of a cannon if you try to manipulate and mold her work into something it’s not.

This book, Black Under, defies what poetry is supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to read like; how it’s supposed to make you feel.

Her metaphors are rapturous, and makes me want to live in her words forever. She is unflinching and unapologetic as she digs deep into our history. We are Black AF, and Black Under, and she demands everyone to know as such.

Some poems that will forever be etched in my mind are:
– Ode to Black Skin
– Slave Ship Haibun
– The Body Recalls
– Answer to an Earnest Prayer

Poetry is very subjective. Though these poems may not fit for many, you cannot deny the genius of Anderson’s words. Her words go within. Under your skin. Taking hold to every captive thought. This collection deserves all the attention and praise. Very well done.

Thank you to the author Ashanti Anderson, and Nanda at Coriolis, and Black Lawrence Press for this amazing collection and I cannot wait to hear more from Ashanti Anderson.

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Unapologetically: I Am a Man by Cornelius J. Maxwell

Unapologetically: I Am a Man

Unapologetically: I Am a Man by Cornelius J. Maxwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book of poetry on the heels of “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This book of poetry came at the perfect time for me because as I was sorting out my feelings and emotions about race and white people, this book of poetry allowed those thoughts and feelings to go deeper and manifest into a clearer picture for me to marinate on.

Race is a constant thought in my brain. It’s always something I think about and it’s something that is unseeable when you look at me. Being Black in a world of whiteness, makes you look at your surroundings in a different manner than being the universal standard of being white. As Reni says, “the whole of humanity is coded as white.” (Eddo-Lodge, Reni, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, p. 85) I notice when I’m the only Black person in a store, in a room, in a checkout line, in a classroom, in a meeting, at my child’s school, at church, in an elevator, etc. My skin is the first thing people see about me. They judge me off of what I look like FIRST before anything else. Do they switch their purses to the other arm, shuffle away from me in an elevator, walk around me while on a sidewalk, decide to not get behind me in a line, roll their eyes when they have to ring me up, decide how much conversation they will give me when they were just a babbling brook with the white person before me? This book of poetry shares those frustrations, emotions, and thoughts. The poetry in this book talks about the experiences that Black people face in America that is glaringly obvious. We are all created in God’s image; yet, we are treated like the scum of the earth by people who have pledged allegiance to a flag and constitution that deems ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED EQUAL, all while claiming to love their neighbors, but shun Black people in the same breath.

America is living in a state of hypocrisy, and this book of poetry gives those thoughts, feelings, and emotions words and actions (feet and hands). Black people are not responsible for racism, but yet, we are always the ones trying to eradicate racism, fight for justice, be proactive, fight the good fight, and being necessary troublemakers for the good of all. This book is passionate, thought-provoking, powerful, and necessary. Overcoming racism, discrimination, and social inequality is a constant struggle for our people. This book of poetry articulates what it means to not only be a Black man in America, but what it is like to be a Black person here, who has served their country with the life, all to be slapped in the face with discrimination and racism that has permeated its way through life, where it feels inescapable. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Poems in this book also shares hopes, dreams, aspirations, and commitment to living life in truth, word and deed, and understanding that work is still needed on a daily basis to enlighten people of the plight of the Black man in America. Very well done!

I especially liked the poems:
– Oh, How Have We Served Thee
– What is it to be Black?
– I See a Vision
– Unseeded History
– Say It Loud
– Unapologetically: I AM A MAN

Thank you to the author Cornelius J. Maxwell for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book had me shook from the intro.

The House on Mango Street is a colorful and descriptive dialogue of Esperanza, as she is coming of age in a neighborhood in Chicago. As the narrator is a pre-teenage girl starting off, you can see how her world looks through her eyes as Cisneros expertly crafts her poetic prose that allows us into Esperanza’s life and her experiences. Esperanza is trying to navigate growing up here in this house that she doesn’t like and thinks should be temporary and not her permanent home. She is ashamed of her house, and wishes for better. Wanting to be seen and heard, and not be invisible or looked over because of her station in life, she persists through it all. This short story collection of vignettes can be read in an hour or languorously spread out over days if you just want to relish in the beautiful tapestry that Cisneros weaves throughout this book. Although some of the subject matter is volatile, harsh, and “grown up,” Esperanza has to face these realities at this young age. We are seeing her grow, develop, and overcome obstacles as a young woman as she sees her way out of this neighborhood through her writing.

Topics discussed:
Teenage angst
Coming of age
Abuse (domestic/sexual)

This book is notoriously classic and I can see why. You can open this book to any page and not be lost, and clearly take something away while reading this book. This book is full of hopes and dreams, especially from the immigrant community, and also the BIPOC community that also experiences the same tragic life that Esperanza is trying to leave behind.

I rate this book a 5. Pure classic and could re-read for an eternity.

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The Perfect Nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first experience with an epic poem from African origin. This is also my first experience with this author. However, this book is quite extraordinary. I could not find any fault in this retelling of the first man and woman from Kenyan culture. The Gĩkũyũ are one of several peoples that make up the Kenyan nation. The Gikuyu people trace theirs to Gĩkũyũ (man) and Mumbi (woman). God put the pair on the snowcapped Mount Kenya, from where they surveyed the lands around. They made their home in a place called Mukuruweini. They had nine daughters, but they were actually ten, hence the Perfect Nine.

This retelling of this African folklore is from a feminist perspective, and how the 10 daughters (nine were perfect) founded the nine clans of Gĩkũyũ. The Perfect Nine is an immersive epic poem that showcases the power of women and how the daughters have attracted 99 men from cultures abroad and have to choose their suitor after embarking through a perilous journey to help their sister (the last born and not perfect) find a cure for her ailment. This journey helps to distinguish the men from boys and help the daughters learn about themselves and each other and how to survive through danger. There are morals to the story, allegorical examples, and poetic prose that helps the reader truly dive into this epic poem and not come up for air until after it’s over.

“The journey of life is not a shortcut to knowledge; it is a long learning process. One cannot hurry it, and one does not travel on it alone.”

“Woman is the mother of life,
For she is the one who carries the womb of life.
Woman is the carrier of creation. We show her gratitude always.”

This myth has all the things that you need to make this retelling of origins to be perfect; ogres, lions, sacred mountains, prowess in welding weapons, suspense, adventure and plot twists. The story was very rich in mythological tradition, and I could not put it down!

Thank you to New Press and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Full review can found in link in bio.

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On the Way to Reign by Dervé J.

On The Way to Reign – Dervé J.

Disclaimer: Poetry is very subjective, and you can take or not take something away based on your own personal feelings.

That being said, Dervé J. has organized her book of poetry into 3 separate sections:

– The Acknowledgments

– The Pin Points

– The New

This book is like a journey from self-reflection to self-awareness. Expressing to self and to others how to get on the road to self-love, self-discovery, knowledge, self-care, and strength. Although in life we go through ups and downs, and surprising situations that we didn’t really plan for, this book helps to keep all of that into perspective and acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers, but we do have way to be proud of our journeys, and continue to trust in your ourselves to a better day.

This book of poetry supports self-empowerment, self-reliance, and acknowledging the past for what it is, and picking yourself up to move forward in a resilience we all have needed at some point in our lives. This book is great for a young woman looking to gather some tools for the future, or for the woman who needs to be reminded in the power of herself. Don’t be discouraged in what has happened, but look forward as to what you can do to make YOU a better version of yourself. m man j

Thank you to the author Dervé J. for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Divan of Shah by Shah Asad

Divan of Shah

Divan of Shah by Shah Asad Rizvi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Divan of Shah is a very emotional, intimate, sensual collection of poems. These poems literally dance with joy and romanticism, evoking a need to be with someone close. The poems do sway back and forth on the emotional spectrum between desperation and love, but they are all standalone poems that can be read and re-read through time. I loved how the author wrote about dance, and how many of the poems seem to be “dancing” in rhythm and prose allowing you to connect in more ways then just reading the poetry. There are snippets of wisdom and inspirational thought in between each poem that just fits perfectly. The poems also allow you to connect with yourself and delve deeper into a spiritual connection you may have and draw inspiration from reading this collection of work.

Poetry for me should not be read all in one sitting but over a period of time, so that you can allow the words to permeate through your mind and have you think about things going on in your life and how the poetry can influence interactions with others or give you a sense of being/relaxation/joy. This collection of work took me a while to get through because I stopped and started and came back and re-read poems that I liked. Poetry should be sipped… not gulped. Not inhaled all at once.

A few of my favorite poems I kept coming back to was:
– Sensation
– My Queen
– Foreplay
– All of You
– Tale of our lives
– A Life Without You
– A Thousand Dreams

Thank you to the author Shah Asad for providing me with an electronic copy of his book of poetry for a fair and honest review.

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