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In Love with Love and (non)Lousy Poetry

As a child I was taught to make myself very small. I have always been small in stature and as a child I was all tiny bones and hair bleached white from the summer sun, but that is not the kind of small I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the kind of small that taught me that to be in the way was a bad thing, but to be quiet and take up no space and cause as few ripples to the already tumultuous sea was a good thing.

Being a little girl that grew into a woman, I know my story is a shared story. That there are a lot of girls that felt afraid and tired and had their imaginations as their best friends, and that lots of women learned their coping skills from those same scared 4-year-olds. I think to be a woman is to be art and poetry—lots of shock value and cruelty, sadness, strength and beauty. To be a woman is to be a stark drawing on an otherwise blank page. It’s to be the sea carrying around all those salt water tears, where nothing ever really goes away, but always float there next to you. It’s to learn how to live, then to unlearn that and replace it with a healthier version, and to keep doing that again and again until you get it right. Being a woman means that power is a huge topic always in your life, when it literally flows out of you, but mostly goes unseen. To be a woman is to create, to dream, to continually try to break all barriers, to constantly leak both sadness and happiness out of your pores, and to remember to always find solidarity in the poetry of others.

 

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

By far my favorite selection for this blog post, (so of course this will be a longer paragraph than the others), Milk and Honey is my go-to recommendation for anyone wanting to read a bit of poetry this month. It is a short collection of poetry and sketches that will speak to any woman. The book is split into 4 equal parts, each as important to living as the other. Four separate parts that flow in and out of one another over the course of one’s lifetime, sometimes easy like the thinness of milk, sometimes thick like honey that stays sticky for ages. The first part belongs to the hurting. The most painful part, the first pages exhausting and painful, the part that will make any woman crumble and cry out in empathy and a connectedness to the pain, the universal pain of being a woman. The second section flows into the loving. Turning the hurting into love in the only ways you know how. It is all of you, this strongest force, driving into someone else, with everything, the good, the bad, and the baggage. The loving is a reflection of all that you are, of what you have been taught, of what they have been shown. It is powerful and passionate, brave and frightful. The loving turns into the breaking. The part where things end, but also never really end. The part where you being broken has a profound effect on your ability to keep your head above water. The part where your awareness becomes stronger than the love for minutes, hours, days. You have lost yourself, only to once again start to find yourself again underneath the wreckage. Then lastly and thankfully and maybe the toughest part, the healing. The part where you start to love yourself again despite the way others think you should look, feel, and be. The part where you bloom and find that you are lovely despite how others gage the color of your skin, your stretch marks, and the hair on your body. You are better and healthy and worthy.

The Lifting Dress by Lauren Berry

A thick swamp of a town in Florida, surrounded by ocean on most sides where childhoods slide away and drown from too much salt water in the air and too much adulthood at too young of an age. A young girl faced with an enormous trauma (that of rape) and the aftermath makes up this collection of poems. The Lifting Dress is a thin volume of poems, yet one that is thick with sea air and heartbreak. A journey of denial, and life, things buried and coming to the surface, bubbling, innocent, and tragic. Lauren Berry’s debut book of poetry is a captivating look into what it can be like to be a girl, the lush and painful beauty, like a 2-day-old bruise that has blossomed into purples and pinks and grays, pretty yet painful to the touch.

Auguries of Innocence by Patti Smith

”It’s Patti Smith” is really all I need to say here. As a self-proclaimed lover of all things Patti Smith, I loved this slim volume of poetry as much as I have each of her books and all of her music. Always brilliant, intelligent, and deep, Patti once again does not disappoint. I love these poems because they are equal parts political and familiar. Poems on Libya and Benghazi mixed with poems about her children and deceased husband, Fred Sonic Smith. A flowing book that reads like real life, because all of us are all of these things all at once, suffering alongside beauty, dawn alongside night.

My House by Nikki Giovanni

Celebrated author of over 25 books, Nikki Giovanni is a pioneer whose first books were published around the same time as the Black Rights Movement started in the 1960s. She has continued to be a voice for many with poems based around slavery, family, Africa, and black leaders such as Rosa Parks, Phillis Wheatley, and Martin Luther King, Jr. My House is a work steeped in feminism and poems that reflect her life as a black American. Nikki Giovanni uses her poetry to blend love and experience with civil rights and activism. Her books and poetry are a must read for all.

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