Update from “Black Women Poets in the U.S." by Jonathon Jacob Moore
A classroom where the poetry of Black women is centered models a radically different kind of learning environment, one where inequality and violence are approached by studying how those most exposed to these realities understand their circumstances and resist. In the first week of “‘how dare you care about yourself?’: Black Women Poets in the U.S,” students learned that the history of Black women poets in the U.S. is rich and centuries old. So far we’ve read poems by Phillis Wheatley, listened to Nina Simone, and watched interpretive dance based off of the poetry of June Jordan and spoken word poetry by Boston-based poets Ashley Davis and Oompa. We’ve learned useful acronyms for analyzing poetry and are soon to embark upon writing our first poetry annotations.
Questions that have already arisen include; What themes or experiences tie together poetry written by Black women in the U.S.? How does age and sexuality impact what words a poet chooses to use? How might changing the title of a poem create an entirely different effect? During Thursday’s class discussion, students worked together to identify figurative language in Raych Jackson’s “A sestina for a black girl who does not know how to braid hair.” We agreed that Jackson used certain language to illustrate the speaker’s personal connection to the setting described in the poem. We then debated whether or not we thought Jackson herself might be the speaker. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to teach students poetry unfettered by adherence to canons wherein they are not represented and am proud of their determination to comprehend dense text and imagine wildly. I’m looking forward to growing together.