So I never really read poetry. Yes I know I was an English Lit student, but I have just never really been drawn to it, and a lot of the time, the descriptive metaphors pass right over my head and I’m left feeling more confused than anything else.
Traditional poetry just isn’t my thing. During uni, there was only so many rhyme schemes and metaphorical symbols I could take, it’s safe to say that I got a bit sick of analysing literature by the end of my degree (but that’s a whole other story). However, (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) I found a whole other section in the poetry world I actually really enjoy, and now that I come to think of it, it’s really bloody obvious: contemporary poetry! Poetry about women and sexuality, poetry about self discovery and what it means to be a person of colour in the 21st century. Poetry where I can really get to grips with the lived experience of someone else.
Now that sounds awfully deep, but that’s what it felt like to read Every Watering Word by Tanya Manning-Yarde. The collection is centred around a variety of different themes – women’s self discovery, sex, motherhood, the impact of gender and racial oppression, and “exploring tensions underlying what it means to be African-American and Christian.”
Tanya really nails it. Her poems are emotional and direct, yet also metaphorical in ways I could mostly follow. There were still a few moments where I felt a bit lost, but I think that’s just my relationship with poetry – not a reflection of her writing. Regardless, her poetry felt accessible, and really invites you in to experience what life is like for her as an African-American woman.
The honesty of her poems are what I particularly enjoyed. In A Mecca of Stretch Marks, she describes the idea of a stretch mark, which society often paints as ugly and something to be hidden, as lightning.
lightning bolts ranging/
scattering and bursting
blooming luminescent fission/
in thighed sky
As a woman reading this, I’ve never felt so fierce, and I want nothing more than to parade down the streets with my thighs out, because why the hell should I be ashamed of my body?
Her clever writing also shines through. I have so much admiration and am in awe of writing when it is so cleverly crafted. The clever twist of words and half rhymes reminds me of the beautiful lyricism of Lin Manuel Miranda and it really is a delight to read:
“translating architecture of notes
into their arcs and texture”
In ‘News at 4, 5, 6:30 and 11’ she portrays the tension between people of colour, especially black men, and the police, demonstrating how ingrained and systematic racism is. The way she lists all the different cities is so poignant, how all over America, time and time again, this keeps happening. It definitely shines light on why the #blacklivesmatter movement is so important.
‘Baltimore. Chicago. Detroit. Los Angeles. New York.
But the usual story.
Black assailant…male…seen fleeing…
no need to finish the sentence.
Go right to sentencing.
I hope for those of you who don’t usually read poetry, this has convinced you to give it a try! I personally think Every Watering Word is a perfect place to start to read about contemporary issues in an honest and refreshing way.
Thank you to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.