December’s Poem of the Month

This month I’m diving into a poet that I actually wanted to stay away from. The main reason I was hoping to avoid her work for a while is that her work is somewhat controversial for lovers of poetry. Some find her work to be pretentious and too simplistic. Others love it for the latter reason I just mentioned. At least for me, I first heard of her work through the ‘hipster’ side of Tumblr, and I found myself somewhere in between these two sides. I’m not here to give my opinion on this poet’s entire career; I just wanted to share one of her many poems that happened to move me very much. Anyways, enough of my babbling. Please enjoy December’s Poem of the Month.

“In the spirit of intl women’s day” by Rupi Kaur

“i want to apologize to all the women
i have called pretty.
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave.
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is the most you have to be proud of
when your spirit has crushed mountains
from now on i will say things like, you are resilient
or, you are extraordinary.
not because i don’t think you’re pretty.
but because you are so much more than that”

Feel free to check out Kaur on Twitter, Instagram, or her website. This is from her book of poetry titled, “milk and honey.” You can purchase it on Amazon or Indigo.

November’s Poem of the Month

In my 11th grade English class, we had to pick a famous poet and do a biography and a poem analysis on them. Without giving it too much thought, I chose Sylvia Plath because of her tormented past. I ended up falling in love with her poetry and her style of writing. She has a timeless way of writing that gives a classic vibe o her poetry, yet it’s not intimidating or confusing for young people reading it in the 21st century. The poem I’ve chosen to share with everyone is the same one I did my analysis on years ago (don’t worry, I won’t be including that here). I hope you enjoy Plath’s words as much as 16-year-old me did.

Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

“I have done it again.   
One year in every ten   
I manage it——
A sort of walking miracle, my skin   
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,   
My right foot
A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine   
Jew linen.
Peel off the napkin   
O my enemy.   
Do I terrify?——
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?   
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be   
At home on me
And I a smiling woman.   
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.   
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.   
The peanut-crunching crowd   
Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.   
Gentlemen, ladies
These are my hands   
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.   
The first time it happened I was ten.   
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.   
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Dying
Is an art, like everything else.   
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.   
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.   
It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute   
Amused shout:
‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.   
There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge   
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge   
For a word or a touch   
Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.   
So, so, Herr Doktor.   
So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,   
The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.   
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——
A cake of soap,   
A wedding ring,   
A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer   
Beware
Beware.
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair   
And I eat men like air.”
If you’d like to learn more about Sylvia Plath, click here.

October’s Poem of the Month

Like many other young women, I’ve struggled with body image. I know there are many poems and stories out there about people’s journey with body positivity, yet this is one of the first that had struck me so deeply. I first listened to Baird recite this years ago, and it has stayed in my mind ever since. Even though I’ve never had an eating disorder, I related to her words so immensely and thoroughly appreciated the style and delivery of her poem. That being said, this may trigger you if you have/had an eating disorder, so continue with caution. Please enjoy October’s poem of the month!

When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny by Blythe Baird 

“The year of skinny pop and sugar-free jello cups,
we guzzled vitamin water and vodka.
Toasting to high school and survival,
complimenting each other’s thigh gaps.

Trying diets we found on the internet:
menthol cigarettes, eating in front of a mirror, donating blood.
Replacing meals with other practical hobbies
like making flower crowns, or fainting.

Wondering why I hadn’t had my period in months, or why breakfast tastes like giving up.
Or how many more productive ways I could’ve spent my time today besides googling the calories in the glue of a U.S envelope.

Watching Americas Next Topmodel like the gospel,
hunching naked over a bathroom scale shrine,
crying into an empty bowl of cocoa puffs
because I only feel pretty when I’m hungry.

If you are not recovering, you are dying.

By the time I was sixteen, I had already experienced being clinically overweight, underweight and obese.
As a child fat was the first word people used to describe me,
which didn’t offend me, until I found out it was supposed to.

When I lost weight, my dad was so proud, he started carrying my before-and-after photo in his wallet.
So relieved he could stop worrying about me getting diabetes.
He saw a program on the news about the epidemic with obesity, said he’s just so glad to finally see me taking care of myself.
If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you go to the hospital.
If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story.

So when I evaporated, of course everyone congratulated me on getting healthy.
Girls at school who never spoke to me before, stopped me in the hallway to ask how I did it.

I say “I am sick”. They say “No, you’re an inspiration!”
How could I not fall in love with my illness?
With becoming the kind of silhouette people are supposed to fall in love with?
Why would I ever want to stop being hungry, when anorexia was the most interesting thing about me?

So how lucky it is now, to be boring.
The way not going to the hospital is boring.
The way looking at an apple and seeing only an apple, not sixty, or half an hour sit-ups is boring.

My story may not be as exciting as it used to,
but at least there is nothing left to count.
The calculator in my head finally stopped.

I used to love the feeling of drinking water on an empty stomach, waiting for the coolness to slip all the way down and land in the well.
Not obsessed with being empty but afraid of being full.

I used to be proud when I was cold in a warm room.
Now, I am proud. I have stopped seeking revenge on this body.
This was the year of eating when I was hungry without punishing myself and I know it sounds ridiculous, but that shit is hard.”

Watch Baird recite this poem here. If you want to discover more of her work, check out her Facebook, Twitter, or website.

September’s Poem of the Month

About two years ago I took a Canadian Native studies course in my final year of high school. One of our assignments was to research an Indigenous artist and showcase some of their work. Most people gravitated towards visual artists such as painters, yet of course, I was drawn towards a poet. I had the pleasure of exploring Rebecca Thomas’s work, and even received a lovely reply when I emailed her about it all. As a Mi’kmaq woman, she has much experience with identity, cultural appropriation, and oppression, which is the topic of most of her poetry. Specifically, the one I’ve chosen to share with everyone today focuses on the false image of Pocahontas that Western culture has portrayed for decades. Without further ado, please enjoy September’s Poem of the Month!

Matoax by Rebecca Thomas

“It was all a lie.

I was appropriated as Disney’s racist alibi,

They plucked me as a girl out of history, and without ever mentioning my tribe

They made into a woman whose only worth was to keep John Smith alive,

An event that was completely contrived

It was all a lie.

 

All the while Jamestown and the crown

They converted my kin to cover their sin

They made the world believe in

Pilgrims, patriots and heathens,

And I was left with my whitewashed skin,

Brought back to life to make the leaves spin and

My people were left to paint a future with the bleached out colours of the wind.

 

In order to protect me, my community kept my real name shrouded in secrecy,

In your fairy tale,

I went from preteen, to sixteen, to baptism and Christianity,

All the while my people continued to bleed.

 

Nobody knows that my name is Matoax,

But everyone is familiar with the stories of blankets and small pox,

They love our style, “Native Inspired”, they rock our mocs, using feathers for props, buying Urban Outfitter Smudge kits for fifty dollars a pop.

But there, your interests stops

No one asks about the high way of tears,

The hunger walks,

Racial Integrity Laws? Nobody balks. Because everyone knows,

If you want to be an Indian princess, forget the culture that needs to be sought,

it just takes one drop.

 

Kidnapped and held at a ransom for swords and guns,

I was raped but oral history is so easily undone,

My people were given booze and were racially shunned,

I had a daughter, a life,

I was married to Kocuom!

Something my full length feature film decided was too much of a plot conundrum

So they had him killed off and made no mention of my abduction.

 

My sequel had me ditch Smith for Rolfe in Holy matrimony,

That other husband?

A pop culture memory, just a savage phony.

This marriage counted,

By the grace of God and all his glory,

It is here at least some good came out of my story.

 

I never spoke about my feelings for Rolfe, though they say he loved me so,

Our union brought peace to my people and to his,

Literal boatloads of money from stolen fields of tobacco.

And so,

The spin given in England,

Was that I was the perfectly civilized Indian,

That could hand over your perception of a kingdom,

But behind your back, my jingle dress is jingling.

 

On my way home I died from pneumonia or pox or tuberculosis,

And sadly, my history learned via osmosis,

By frat girls in red face striking Native poses.

The bones of my people are buried in America’s closet, mine is just a bonus.

So many holes

Your lessons are built on history’s osteoporosis.

 

The reality is this:

The English only wanted to flaunt us,

Their history still continues to abuse and haunt us,

You don’t even know my real name.

You only know me as Pocahontas.”

If you wish to read more of Rebecca Thomas’s work, find her on Facebook and Twitter.

August’s Poem of the Month

I feel like this poem needs no introduction. You’ve all most likely heard it before and will most definitely recognize the poet. She has inspired generations of writers and paved the way for women, black women specifically, to thrive and grow in the field of poetry. This was one of the first poems I read as a little girl, and I remembered feeling so empowered, both as a writer and a woman. I hope every little girl has the opportunity to read this and feel pride in being female.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou 

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”
Feel free to check out Caged Bird Legacy, a website created to keep Dr. Maya Angelou’s memory alive.

July’s Poem of the Month

This is quite a topical poem, as it responds to Megan Kelly’s statement that Jesus was a white man. This has been a long debated topic, although it seems to be a no-brainer for those who know where He was born and raised. Yet a religion revolving around forgiveness and the man that embodies peace and represents becomes a symbol of white power and another method of division between races. While reciting this, the poet understandably becomes quite passionate and shaken as she gracefully disproves Kelly’s ludicrous proclamation. If anyone ever tries to tell you that Jesus was white, show them this poem.

And the News Reporter Says Jesus Is White by Crystal Valentine 

“And the news reporter says Jesus is white

She says it with a smile
Like it’s the most obvious thing in the world
So sure of herself
Of her privilege
Her ability to change history
Rewrite bodies to make them look like her

She says it the same way politicians say racism no longer exists
The same way police officers call dead black boys thugs
The same way white gentrifiers call Brooklyn home

She says it with an American accent
Her voice doing that American thing
Crawling out of her throat
Reaching to clasp onto something
That does not belong to her

I laugh to myself

What makes a black man a black man?
Is it a white woman’s confirmation?
Is it her head nod?
Is it the way she’s allowed to go on national television
And autocorrect the bible and God himself,
Tell him who his son really was?

What makes a black man a black man:
The way reporters retell their deaths like fairytales
The way they cannot outrun a bullet

How can she say Jesus was a white man
When he died the blackest way possible?

With his hands up
With his mother watching,
Crying at his feet
Her tears nothing more than gossip
For the news reporters or prophets to document
With his body left to sour in the sun
With his human stripped from his black

Remember that?
How the whole world was saved by a black man
By a man so loved by God,
He called him kin
He called him black

Now ain’t that suspicious?
Ain’t that news worthy?
Ain’t that something worth being killed over?”

Watch Valentine recite this poem here. Check out more about Crystal Valentine and her work by visiting her website or her Facebook.

June’s Poem of the Month

This is going to be a sad one, so brace yourself with plenty of tissues. I remember first discovering this poem, listening to the writer recite it himself at a poetry slam. By the end of the poem, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. The journey that he takes us on is unbelievably heartbreaking and delivered in such a clever format. He counts down from his current age, 21, to when his mother was pregnant with him, recalling all the major events in his life, most of them revolving around his father. This is one of those poems that left me thinking about it for days, months and even years later. Hopefully, it will have the same effect on you.

21 by Patrick Roche

“21. My father is run over by a car.
He is passed out in the road with a blood alcohol content 4 times the legal limit.
I do not cry.

Four months later,
The nurses lose his pulse, and I wonder whose life flashed before his eyes.
Rewinding VHS tapes
Old home videos

20.

19. I haven’t brought a friend home in four years.

18. My mother sips the word “divorce”.
Her mouth curls at the taste like it burns going down.

17. I start doing homework at Starbucks.
I have more meaningful conversations with the barista
Than with my family

16. I wait for Christmas Eve.
My brother and I usually exchange gifts to one another early
This year, he and my father exchange blows.
My mother doesn’t go to mass.

15. I come up with the theory that my father started drinking again
Because maybe he found out I’m gay.
Like if he could make everything else blurry,
Maybe somehow I’d look straight.
15. My mother cleans up his vomit in the middle of the night
And cooks breakfast in the morning like she hasn’t lost her appetite.

15. I blame myself.

15. My brother blames everyone else.

15. My mother blames the dog.

15. Super Bowl Sunday
My father bursts through the door like an avalanche
Picking up speed and debris as he falls
Banisters, coffee tables, picture frames
Tumbling, stumbling.
I find his AA chip on the kitchen counter.

14. My father’s been sober for 10,
Maybe 11, years?
I just know
We don’t even think about it anymore.

13.

12.

11. Mom tells me Daddy’s “meetings” are for AA.
She asks if I know what that means.
I don’t.
I nod anyway.
10. My parents never drink wine at family gatherings.
All my other aunts and uncles do.
I get distracted by the TV and forget to ask why.

9.

8.

7.

6. I want to be Spider-Man.
Or my dad.
They’re kinda the same.

5.

4.

3. I have a nightmare
The recurring one about Ursula from The Little Mermaid
So I get up
I waddle toward Mommy and Daddy’s room,
Blankie in hand,
I pause.
Daddy’s standing in his underwear
Silhouetted by refrigerator light.
He raises a bottle
To his lips.
2.

1.

0. When my mother was pregnant with me,
I wonder if she hoped,
As so many mothers do,
That her baby boy would grow up to be
Just like
His father.”

I recommend you listen to Roche recite this himself, which can be found here. To find out more about Roche and his work, find him on Twitter or Facebook.