Donovan Livingston, Ed. M. ’16, performed a spoken word piece at the Harvard School of Education graduation ceremony this week that is absolutely riveting. In it, he addresses this country’s very ugly past and present with institutional racism and what it means to be a Black person in education at this moment of history.
“Each piece is a reflection of the people, places and experiences of struggle that have shaped who I am–The Movement, the Black Aesthetic, strong Black women, our continued pursuit of Black Liberation. I just hope the people can receive it.”
“Oppression doesn’t disappear just because you decided not to teach us that chapter.”
If those words were not strong enough, I do not know what words would be. Clint Smith III examined the role that the Founding Fathers played in oppressing black people in his new poem “History Reconsidered” which he performed at All Def Poetry.
“As I said in my letter to Columbia,” Winter Tangerine Review editor-in-chief Yasmin Belkhyr shared with me, “how many women of color have not been able to enter writing competitions because of reading fees? How many are not able to pursue writing because of the high cost of workshops? One is too many.”
We all know that the writing and entertainment industries rarely uplift and empower Black queer voices. To help challenge that fact, we have compiled a list if writers you need on your shelf this holiday season.
By L.G. Parker
For black and queer persons alike, much of the realities of our lives are considered “made up” by those who don’t and won’t understand us. Black, queer poets have access to new ways of approaching language as a result of this reality. As self proclaimed black lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde said in her famous essay “Poetry Is Not A Luxury,” poetry “forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”
These writers have used language to move American Letters, the public imaginary, and all who are touched by their work toward a tangible action unlike anything that came before them. You need them on your bookshelf.
1. R. Erica Doyle – proxy (Belladonna Press, 2013)
Proxy is an unrequited love story in prose poems, where the landscape of the beloved body becomes the windows of New York City, the deserts of North Africa, and the mangroves of the Caribbean. PROXY is a conversation with the calculus, plotting and space against the infinite capacities of desire.
2. Bettina Judd – Patient. (Black Lawrence Press, 2014)
Patient. explores black women’s trauma in medical settings by greeting and conversing with the ghosts of Anarcha Westcott, Betsey Harris, Lucy Zimmerman, Joice Heth, Saartjie Baartman, and Henrietta Lacks.
3. L. Lamar Wilson – Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series, 2013)
Wilson’s debut collection is rich with the spiritual traditions of his Southern home. Each poem beautifully assaults and inserts the reader intro an urgent conversation about racism, homophobia, and being differently abled.
4. Rickey Laurentiis – Boy with Thorn (Pitt Poetry Series, 2015)
In a landscape at once the brutal American South as it is the brutal mind, Boy with Thorn interrogates the genesis of all poetic creation—the imagination itself, questioning what role it plays in both our fascinations with and repulsion from a national history of racial and sexual violence. The personal and political crash into one language here, gothic as it is supple, meditating on visual art and myth, to desire, the practice of lynching and Hurricane Katrina. Always at its center, though, is the poet himself—confessing a double song of pleasure and inevitable pain.
5. Danez Smith – [insert] boy (Yes Yes Books, 2014)
Smith delivers, through a series of elegies for the black boy that is you, your brother, and cousins n’nem, a collection of poems that insist on and explore desire, the body, and how to say hallelujah anyhow.
L.G. Parker is a poet and writer living in Richmond, VA. She is a Callaloo fellow and regular contributor to Elixher Magazine, Blavity, and the Black Youth Project.
A new Broadway musical will feature songs and poetry of the late Tupac Shakur.