Black Lives Matter: Poems for a New World

Posted by cc576 at Dec 30, 2020 11:00 PM |
A review by Laura Siekapen-Youmbi

Ambrose Musiyiwa's anthology was produced following last year's shocking and senseless killing of George Floyd, after which the notion of “Black Lives Matter” was revived and re-voiced through writing. In response, writers around the world were encouraged to share poems on this subject, and other current, black-related issues in different styles and forms, mostly consisting of free verse/prose. By not following strict poetry conventions or rhyme schemes, the poems reflect the non-adherence to rules and conventions that characterised the pandemic. These 107 poems, spanning 166 pages range from black history, to Covid-19, from the Windrush generation, to police brutality.

Adrienne Asher's ‘Say their Names’ pays tribute to the dead and yearns to “remember, not ignore Those who have fallen victim To a brand-new civil war./George Floyd, Breonna Taylor Ahmaud Arbery are only just a few”.

Sharon Cherry Ballard utilises typical black stereotypes to cynically highlight the fact that black people must mould themselves to fit extraneous western ideals in her poem, ‘I am so Grateful’: “I am so grateful I tame down my vibrance/like a voodoo witch stealing away the voice of a siren/I allow it to act as a tyrant and enable it to become my asylum.” The notion of frustration and conformity is very prevalent here, as well as in Tanisha Barrett's ‘This black Body’ and ‘Forgetting Blackness’.

The anthology ends with an homage to the ghosts of the dead with Kathy Zwick's powerful closing poem, ‘Phantoms’. “Cruel humanity within, the tattered string,/grey rotting cord, yesterday’s phantoms in a row.”

It is therefore difficult not to appreciate the gravity of this anthology, which echoes the tragic awakenings of 2020 so profoundly and emotionally, through such powerful imagery and heartfelt words.

Laura Siekapen-Youmbi
Modern Languages and English Literature Student: University of Leicester

Ambrose Musiyiwa
ISBN-13: 978-1-9164593-5-9

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