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  • Amara Amaryah

books | black history month poetry reading

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

hello loves.

as black history month comes to an end, i wanted to share some of my favourite poetry collections from black writers that i have enjoyed. the reading list could be longer but i’ve selected a few writers who mean something special to me.

black history month 2019.

this black history month has felt a bit slow. maybe chairing the black and ethnic minority society during my uni days meant that i was used to black history coming into life with a bang on 1st october with a month’s worth of events planned. this year i honestly attended my first event on 18th october. i’m glad i got there eventually. this BHM i was introduced to the journey of the west african drum thanks to the amazing lekan babalola. a jazz percussionist by trade or a traveller from ‘yoruba land’ trying to educate. i’ll be picking up my reservation on the west african drum through the diaspora on saturday and continuing my black history reading. and really this is what black history month is about, inspiring thought that continues for the rest of the year.

for now, here is a small selection of books that have inspired thought this black history month.

black history month

favourites at the table.

1. grace nichols, the fat black woman’s poems.

‘i have crossed an ocean/ i have cut off my tongue,/ from the root of an old one/ a new one has sprung’

a classic and a must read. nichols sits in the canon of badass caribbean women writing about home from britain. nichols writes about settling from guyana into british culture and all the things she faced. she also writes about the things our parents or grandparents quietly hold space for. it is a true staple and a must read for anyone interested in caribbean women’s writing. i think within the caribbean canon of literary writers, women add a perspective that completes the story of caribbean culture, journeying, home, voice and yet are easily forgotten about. nichols tells you loudly who she is and i love her for it.

after reading this collection, read:

jean binta breeze, malika booker

2. theresa lola, in search of equilibrium.

i’ve read this collection over and over again this year. i’ve practically studied it. as a poet, i appreciate the lyricism and the realism combined. as an english lit grad, i appreciate the forms experimented with. as a fourth generation jamaican, the story is familiar but also distant. lola’s nigerian heritage and retelling of family dynamic is beautiful to experience on page and makes me draw parallels and differences for my own growing up. as someone who hasn’t yet experienced grief up close, it was a journey and maybe the words and feelings will ring as useful reminders one day.

after reading this collection, read:

kayo chingonyi , victoria adukwei bulley

3. jessica wood, temper.

this is a debut poetry collection by an honest, spiritually focussed, delicate writer from sheffield. i read temper in one sitting and my favourite thing about the writing is how quietly riotous it is. every poem pulls you closer to the Creator and asks you to be as concerned or as loving about the world as the Creator is. the collection is , as i said, delicate but stands up for itself and everything it believes in. just like the writer, who i met during my caribbean poetry module at university and who still encourages me to stand firm in my word and God’s.

after reading this collection, read:

antonia king ‘she would be a sailor’, mona arshi

4. mica montana gray, when daisies talk.

mica montana gray is another woman of God whose writing has formed part of my morning routine. this collection houses the kind of poetry that makes you want to underline everything you read. if you need reminding that your mental health is necessary and not after thought, read ‘when daisies talk. if you need a quiet push in the direction of yourself, read when daisies talk’. if you need to see how poetry can be affirmations and real life advice, read ‘when daisies talk’. i’m singing the praises of this poetry collection because it is selfless and vulnerable and with 151 pages has a poem for everyone at every stage. as a black woman, it was especially powerful to have another black woman write so openly about mental health.

after reading this collection, read:

upile chisala ‘soft magic’, maya angelou

5. koleka putuma, collective amnesia.

i’m so grateful for this collection. putuma writes with so much grace and truth. it’s truly carefree. the free spirit in me appreciates the fact that this collection, formally, does things i have never seen before. the space on the page is really played with. i also admire putuma’s discussion of trauma, sexual abuse, christianity, womanhood, belonging, unlearning and sexuality. there’s a lot of space for honesty and i have a long list of poems from this collection that make me double check myself or offer myself breath. i wish i’d read this for the first time and i’m happy if i’ve introduced this to anyone. if so, you’re welcome. or maybe you’ve read it before (reminder to read it again) or you’ve seen it on my blog before (not deja vu but go read it).

after you’ve read this collection, read:

ijeoma umebinyguo ‘questions for ada’, nayyirah waheed

6. yasmina nuny, anos ku ta manda.

a dual language poetry collection from guniea-bissau’s finest (finest) poetry woman. ‘anos ku ta manda‘ is written in kriol in some parts and the rest is written in pure fire. i’ve admired yasmina’s poetry for ages so i was excited when her body of work came together. the story of love, loss and rebellion speaks so clearly to where i am in this stage of life. i admire this poetry collection because there isn’t a single quiet moment, it takes up space the way all black women should. if you need a poet to speak unapologetically then you have found all you need in yasmina nuny. from the position of blackness in church, to black love, to diaspora discussions this is a book to make you nod-frown and stand proud in yourself.

after reading this collection, read:

jasmine mans, vanessa kisuule

7. adrian earle, 5000 hurts.

what a poet. adrian’s launch was beautiful to see, i was honoured to support with some poetry and even more proud to hear him read from such a special and necessary collection. as i mentioned in my last post, adrian is the smartest and most humble of poets. he’s done amazing things in the birmingham poetry scene and the hippodrome young poets space and is just generally dope. some of his genius fits beautifully in this collection about pain and quiet. i can only comment on the readings from the book as i am saving this collection for november but trust me when i say that it will be an explosive reading experience.

after reading this collection, read:

roy mcfarlane ‘the healing next time’, danez smith

8. warsan shire, teaching my mother how to give birth.

of course, a staple in the poetry discussion. there is something about the way that shire writes that makes me think of magic. there isn’t a poem or story shared by shire that i don’t deeply admire. it leaves me speechless and i’m going to end by simply letting her words show you what i mean:

‘your daughter’s face is a small riot/ her hands are a civil war, / a refugee camp behind each ear, / a body littered with ugly things. / But God, / doesn’t she wear / the world well?’

after reading this collection, read:

amaal said, nafeesa hamid, safia elhilo

thank you for reading what i write. i haven’t shared poetry reads in a while so black history month felt like an ideal opportunity to come back celebrating some of the very best. comment more collections by black writers, like and subscribe if you will.

Yah bless.

Amara Amaryah.

#bookish #poetrybook #poetry #poet #books #blackhistorymonth #bookstagram

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