I have come to realise in the last year or so that I don’t consume enough literature from voices of diversity. It can be quite easy to choose what we read based on how similar it is to our own experiences, or how relatable it is to our own lives. Sometimes I find poetry more enjoyable to read when it has some resonance with my own lifestyle / perspectives. Although this works for finding things we enjoy, this often means we succumb to a negative ignorance we aren’t aware of. I think part of helping less-frequently represented voices to be heard and allowing them a platform comes from our own efforts as a society to look harder for work which is not as well advertised or not as popularly consumed. Lets celebrate everyone, not just people who are alike to us !!
As a result of this realisation, I have been trying to separate myself from that habit and consume more creative work from a variety of people, of different genders and sexualities and ethnicities, and I have found that I have gained so much more in terms of what ideas I take away from the poetry, and what I learn from it. Reading is all about seeing things from different perspectives! It is essential that we allow a platform to blossom such voices and appreciate what is voiced, in order to keep learning from each experience in entirely different ways.
Here is my top four recommendations of poets and some of their work.
- Vivek Shraya’s even this page is white
This debut collection of poetry is beautiful !! I love the simplicity of how this has been created and I think it really emphasises the complexity of the words it delivers. This book takes its focus on racism in Canada, also alluding to and critiquing colonial history. Shraya is transgender, and has explored this through much of her creative work. An example of this was a collection of short stories she released in 2014 called God Loves Hair. I am v excited to read much more of her work !!
2. Audre Lorde’s Coal
As a 20th century American writer and poet, Lorde became known for her radical style of confronting injustices such as racism, sexism and homophobia through her work. My personal favourite is her first published collection (and individual poem), Coal, which shows her method of dealing with the all-encompassing anger surrounding the racist society she lived in. She is also well-known for her critique of white feminism and how second-wave feminism missed the point of equality altogether, calling for a more intersectional movement. I find this v inspiring and find her work equally inspiring when looking at a more intersectional feminist outlook in the society I exist in today.
I am also currently reading the new Penguin Moderns which are only a pound each (!!) and cover a variety of writers such as Audre Lorde. The first one I purchased was Lorde’s The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House, a collection of essays on feminism, poetry and the erotic. A v powerful read and I would highly recommend it if you, like me, get frustrated by the white-feminist rhetoric that seems to be dominated the literature sphere at present.
3. Lemn Sissay
Not only is Lemn Sissay an amazing poet who grew up in Lancashire, but he is also the Chancellor of the University of Manchester where I am studying. I remember hearing Sissay’s name mentioned throughout my education, but it wasn’t until sixth form that I truly started to appreciate his work and think about it through a broader perspective. After spending his early years in the care system, much of his work and activism surrounds this theme and denounces how society treats these children.
Here is a video of Sissay’s poem- Inspired and be Inspired, released to commemorate his appointment to Chancellor at the uni:
4. Sarah Kay’s No Matter the Wreckage
Sarah Kay is a poet from New York, born to a Japanese American mother and a Jewish American father. She is most well known for her spoken word poetry and No Matter the Wreckage, her debut collection of poems, is certainly one which feels powerful to be read aloud. The poems are an exploration of self-discovery and of discovering the world around her, and they are so fresh and satisfying to read. I learnt a lot about my own poetry from this book and I think she deserves much more celebration and recognition. I’m looking forward to her new collection All Our Wild Wonder this spring. My personal favourite of the first is Something We Don’t Talk About Pt 1, if you are looking for somewhere to start.