January’s Poem of the Month

My first semester of the English program is now behind me, which means endless nights of staying up reading Chaucer and writing until my hand is bruised is over (at least for now, that is…) One of my favourite classes involved reading buckets of poetry and discussing our ideas about them in class—so basically the perfect class for me. I finished it with a final term paper about Lady Lazarus (which also happens to be November’s Poem of the Month) and even though it’s over, it sparked my love for poetry and gave me lots of inspiration for this section of my blog. My textbook is filled to the brim with poems ranging from the 1600s to the early 2000s, so expect lots of material from there. The one that earned its spot as January’s Poem of the Month is one of my favourites. It actually made me chuckle out loud and made me wish as was as clever as its author. It stands out since it’s written in prose, and if you know anything about Shakespeare you’ll appreciate the reference right away.

Dim Lady by Harryette Mullen

“My honeybunch’s peepers are nothing like neon. Today’s special at Red Lobster is redder than her kisser. If Liquid Paper is white, her racks are institutional beige. If her mop were Slinkys, dishwater Slinkys would grow on her noggin. I have seen tablecloths in Shakey’s Pizza Parlors, red and white, but no such picnic colors do I see in her mug. And in some minty-fresh mouthwashes there is more sweetness than in the garlic breeze my main squeeze wheezes. I love to hear her rap, yet I’m aware that Muzak has a hipper beat. I don’t know any Marilyn Monroes. My ball and chain is plain from head to toe. And yet, by gosh, my scrumptious Twinkie has as much sex appeal for me as any lanky model or platinum movie idol who’s hyped beyond belief.”

You can listen to Mullen recite this poem here, and read the poem that this is based on here.

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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.

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.

May’s Poem of the Month

It was hard to pick only one of Shane Koyczan’s poems since all of them have their own unique charm that I adore. The first piece of Koyczan’s that I heard was arguably his most popular one, titled To This Day. It made a thirteen-year-old me cry in the middle of the dark auditorium as it was played during an assembly. From then on, I began to explore more of his poetry and he did not disappoint. The one I’ve decided to share with you today focuses on the ominous place that is the internet and all the cruel individuals that lurk among it. As always, his words are so beautifully written and eloquently presented that it never fails to take my breath away. If you aren’t familiar with Koyczan’s work, I highly recommend that you take the time to explore more of his poetry beyond what I’m about to show you.

Troll by Shane Koyczan

“Once upon a time,
You and all your kind lived underneath bridges,
Had ridges for ribs that dropped off into empty chests as if your hearts were all stolen treasures,
As if an excavation crew were hired to dig up and remove the part of you that let you feel.
And while the world above you invented the wheel, you stayed put,
Knowing it would one day need to roll over top of you to get to where it’s going.
You had an endlessly flowing supply line of food.
You began to brood over humanity and made meals of our hope,
As if crushing our spirits would make your mirrors cast better reflections than the ones they gave,
As if the only way you could save yourselves was to make the world ugly so no one would notice you hiding in it.
You learned to knit pain into a kind of camouflage,
Treated hope like a mirage that you could use to lure in your next meal.
You lived off of our fears, as if you could taste what we feel.
And every night, as the moon read bedtime stories to sunlight.
You took darkness as an invite to head out into the world,
You curled your hands into wrecking balls, your breath became squalls, you made rocks rumble, you made land shiver
You made boys and girls pray that someone would deliver them from you
We told them you aren’t real.
Then one day, the world changed, but you all stayed the same.
Just migrated from living underneath bridges to living underneath information super-highways.
Days and nights became meaningless, each already deepened chest became an abyss that no one would ever find the bottom of.
Concepts like love fell into your gravity, we turned ourselves into live preservers, hoping to save as many as we could,
But the fathers who stood guarding closet doors and the mothers who secured the floors underneath beds,
All shook their heads not knowing how to deal with you.
You, who crept into our lives with tongues like knives stabbing your words into our skin.
You began to begin uploading yourselves into our homes you had computer screens for eyes, and software for bones.
You turned your hate into stones and hurled them at beauty,
As if you couldn’t bear to see anything other than ugly, anything different.
You had fingernails like flint, and scraped them along decency hoping we would be the ones to all catch fire.
You all had smiles like one-way barbed wire not meant to keep us out,
Meant to keep us in
Voice like a firing pin, you spoke in explosions
It isn’t cute. It isn’t funny.
You’ve talked strangers into death, and laughed.
And as each family learns to graft skin over the wounds you gave them, you hem yourselves into the scar.
You have coaxed the sober back into bars,
Handed out cigars at memorials,
Offered nooses, cliffs, and pills to those who unfortunately found you before they found help.
You have praised suffering,
Waltzed in between tragedies,
Gracefully dipping misery as if we would somehow be impressed with the dexterity of your animosity.
You have cheered on rape, dashed through police tape as if it were the finish line in a race of who can be awful first.
Even now,
You somehow see this as an invitation to turn your keyboards into catapults,
Wondering which of you can be the first to hate this best.
Your loathing, already dressed in riot gear,
Ready to incite rage,
As if each message board is a stage,
Where you recite hostility,
Turning freedom of speech into freedom of cruelty.
We are stuck with you, the same way you are stuck with you.
Your mind is glue, and it keeps malice fastened there like cheap wallpaper.
We were once upon a time told that none of you exist, we dismissed you as make believe or myth.
Now armed only with resolve, we can no longer afford to tell ourselves that you aren’t real.
We will not let you make your dinners out of the things we feel.”

You can listen to Koyczan himself recite this poem himself here. To find out more about Shane and all his work, you can find him on his website, Twitter, or Facebook.