Why I Read Poetry That Reflects Me
By Helory Laurent
I hope when you think of me
You think of the good times
Even if we ended on a bad note
Because in my opinion
Should not reflect the whole song
— ‘The Tragic Type of Beautiful’ by Cheyenne Jacobs
Poetry is certainly one of the most expressive and thought-provoking forms of literature. It stirs up both emotions and deep thoughts. Whether you’re reading or writing poetry it can be very therapeutic and healing. Two years ago after graduating from undergrad, I decided that I would read more poetry. It sort of felt like the most “adult” thing to get into, since for a majority of my life I’ve never really read much of it before. So the first poetry book that I bought for myself was Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. When I first read it I was simply blown away by it. I didn’t realize that poetry could be so deep. And what I mean by “deep” is that I didn’t know that it could hit me, personally, so hard. There were several moments while reading where I found myself putting the book down just so that I could take a few moments to catch my breath.
At that time, I was going through a lot internally with post graduate depression etc. So when I picked up Milk and Honey, written by a young woman of color where I could find bits of myself within her words, it was completely validating. Now of course I’ve read poetry before for my English and literature classes throughout all of high school and college, but many of the poets that we covered were overwhelmingly white. I couldn’t connect with them on a deeper level. While their work was good, it never truly stuck with me afterwards. So I began my search to read more poetry written by women of color. Poetry by women of color is incredibly important, because they touch upon prominent issues such as: self-esteem, depression, love, healing, as well as politics. A young brown or black girl, reading work written by someone who looks her will be able to relate to it on a more profound plane due to shared experiences through culture and race.
In my search, I’ve come across a few poets like K.Y. Robinson, Nayyirah Weed, and Lang Leav. But, there is one Black female poet I would like to focus on, whose work I’ve shared above: Cheyenne Jacobs. Now, Cheyenne is someone who I personally know, as we attended the same university. I first met her in my sophomore year, since we were both part of the cast for the Vagina Monologues. I just remember thinking that this incredibly tall freshman girl was a total powerhouse. She did, and still does spoken word, and even when she had to read the monologue assigned to her in the show, you felt like she wrote it herself with the way she spoke and how she was able to reel you in. She was always passionate and extremely vocal about topics surrounding the Black community, especially Black women and the experiences we go through that are never fully discussed or go ignored. This year she’s released her second poetry book titled The Tragic Type of Beautiful, back in May of this year. It’s a wonderfully written work which you can find on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It touches on Black girl depression, racism, toxic masculinity, a hypocritical society, healing, spirituality/religion, failed relationships, and love. This book…it touches on a lot, but Cheyenne does it compellingly so.
We still talk quite frequently and so I asked her before writing this, if it would be okay for me to include her in my article and she agreed. One question I asked her was how important poetry was to her as a woman of color? And here’s her answer:
“As a woman of color especially today poetry is really important! Poetry is a form of art and that is why it has always been loved and appreciated. When I was younger I would write poetry because I was bullied and it made me feel better and understood getting those thoughts on paper. Today I am 23 years old and I use my poetry to not only empower women but to bring light to the injustices and discrimination in my community. When it comes to poetry one of the most important things to remember is individuals are writing about their realities. Not everyone likes my writing I am sure and that is okay because not everyone can handle my reality. Poetry for WOC across the board is a way for all of us to take a stand and welcome others into our reality which leaves a long-lasting impression. I have also found it brings us closer sometimes seeing the similarities across culture.”
With that answer in mind, it’s not hard to see why work written by women of color is so significant. A lot our voices off paper can go unheard most times, but with poetry, whether we’re writing or reading it, our voices are amplified. We speak of our realities, breathing them onto paper. And those who are listening, and reading can learn from it too, or even see bits of themselves as well through, as Cheyenne said, “similarities across culture”. Girls of color see themselves reflected and understood through these poets of color, and sometimes they may even find themselves like they never knew they could before in these works too. It’s a beautiful thing to feel heard and found through another woman like me. It’s amazing to for them to use poetry as a means of fighting against stigmas and endorsing female empowerment and self-love and healing. This is why I read poetry that reflects me.
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About the Author
Helory Laurent is a Haitian-American woman with a B.A in Theater & Comedy, but currently studying to get her Master's in English. An avid reader, you can always find a book in her hand. Besides her love of books, she also loves to write in her spare time, cook, watch movies, and music. Her obsessions include anything Disney, Studio Ghibli, and Pride & Prejudice.
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