Monday, March 21, 2016

Citizen:An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

by Tayé Foster Bradshaw, Kirkwood MO

Today is International Poetry Day. It is a day to pause and remember the place of verse, lyric, prose, and line in helping us to understand and give voice to some of life's complexities.

Rarely is poetry reviewed on this site, a place almost solely dedicated to celebrating black female literary works. Claudia's work, however, almost demands to be noticed.

This small volume is a collection of thoughts, images, and reflections on the place of race and existence in these  United States.

More specifically, she has interwoven the ubiquitious YOU into the fabric of these musings to have everyone ponder what does it mean to be called "citizen."

Is the little black boy in the classroom whose skin invokes an irrational fear in his white female teacher a citizen?

What about the celebrated tennis player whose presence evokes some of the most egregious commentary?

Where is the space held for the man on the train or the woman buying a house?

The feelings that rose up in me were exactly what poetry is meant to inspire. I felt at once a bit of exhaustion and despair, the tiredness that comes with being a woman of color, a black identified woman of mixed ethnicity in a place where my very presence is a contradiction.  It brought some weariness as it also brought pain, the lingering sting of recovery after a surgeon's scalple has removed the offending tumor.

When I closed the last page, I sat still, just wanted to be surrounded with my thoughts.

I read this in the middle of orchestra performances and reading about the antics of presidential candidates, budget cuts and news of another little black boy being suspended from school. I read it against the backdrop of my everyday life and was both exilerated and exhausted by the feelings that enveloped me.

What does it mean to be present here in a place where some want us to "go back to Africa" while others know they need us here but want us hidden from their private enclaves. What does it mean?  if we all suddenly left?

As poetry is intended to be interpretative through the lense of experience, time, and space, I invite you to consider this little volume, a collection of musings from Hurricane Katrina to Trayvon Martin to Mike Brown, and ponder where we are placed in the quest to simply be.

Tayé Foster Bradshaw is the writer's nom de plumme to honor her late parents. She and her family live in a suburb of St. Louis surrounded by books, art, and lots of coffee. Find her on twitter @lattegriot, on Google+ at +Tayé Foster Bradshaw or email her at

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Playing My Mother's Blues by Valerie Wilson Wesley

Stories about mothers and daughters can be either a cliché or a conversation.

Valerie Wilson Wesley invited us to consider the present situation of one mother and her two daughters as they grabble with a decison made before they were aware of the consequenses.

Stepping into this muse, stretched out over the course of one weekend, felt a lot like sitting down for a latte with a sistafriend and asking her, "Tell me what happened." We would sit there for hours while she weaves together the events, memory fading in spaces, that completely altered the last twenty years.

Oftentimes, I have found myself asking "what if" when I think of my late mother.

A girl without a mother is almost always wondering, searching, pondering.

This is a story of just such emotions, wrapped around the tragic events of two decisions that made one question being respectable and being reckless.  What if.

Dani, Rose, Maria/Mariah, Mai, Trish, Lucille, Irish - these women and the intrigue behind their life decisions, lived in my lifetime - will resonate with me. How many women's lives mirror this story of being in the shadow of one mother's ambition and another mother's passion? How many sisters are protective of each other and how many friends are more than friends holding space for one to find their way?

Secrets. So many untolds. Is it because we can't handle the truth, or is it because our wealth and intellect demand that we speak an existence that does not whisper a shadowed second?

In the backdrop of this very real woman's story is the presence of men in shaping the experiences of women. Will we ever be free from the wielding of power, demands of soul, or place of want that accompanies the self-proclaimed masters of the universe? Do women's very lives only have an existence in and around the self-centered decision of the men who interrrupt their story?

When I think about my late mother, who passed away when I was four, I often wonder about her story. I yearn for her the way seven-year-old Dani yearned for her mother to choose her first. What is it about mothers-and-daughters that continue to reflect the deeper issues of identity, understanding, expectation, want, and need?

This is a very accessible and highly readable story by a prolific author. Valerie Wilson Wesley realistically offers us a tale that can be as real as the historical references set to place this tale in my adulthood.

Perhaps the mother's blues are the daughter's chords.

Tayé Foster Bradshaw lives and works in Kirkwood, Missouri surrounded by her books, mug collection, and love from her daughters that propels her to keep reviewing strong stories of black women.

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