Saturday, February 10, 2024

*Review* Poemhood: Our Black Revival edited by Amber McBride, Erica Martin, and Taylor Byas


Genre: Poetry
Published: January 30, 2024
Pages: 160

Starring thirty-seven poets, with contributions from acclaimed authors, including Kwame Alexander, Ibi Zoboi, and Nikki Giovanni, this breathtaking Black YA poetry anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Amber McBride, Taylor Byas, and Erica Martin celebrates Black poetry, folklore, and culture.

Come, claim your wings.

Lift your life above the earth,

return to the land of your father’s birth.

What exactly is it to be Black in America?

Well, for some, it’s learning how to morph the hatred placed by others into love for oneself; for others, it’s unearthing the strength it takes to continue to hold one’s swagger when multitudinous factors work to make Black lives crumble. For some, it’s gathering around the kitchen table as Grandma tells the story of Anansi the spider, while for others it's grinning from ear to ear while eating auntie’s spectacular 7Up cake.

Black experiences and traditions are complex, striking, and vast—they stretch longer than the Nile and are four times as deep—and carry more than just unimaginable pain—there is also joy.

Featuring an all-star group of thirty-seven powerful poetic voices, including such luminaries as Kwame Alexander, James Baldwin, Ibi Zoboi, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, and Gwendolyn Brooks, this riveting anthology depicts the diversity of the Black experience by fostering a conversation about race, faith, heritage, and resilience between fresh poets and the literary ancestors that came before them.

Edited by Taylor Byas, Erica Martin, and Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner Amber McBride, Poemhood will simultaneously highlight the duality and nuance at the crux of so many Black experiences with poetry being the psalm constantly playing.

I won a copy of this book through Goodreads. This is my honest review. 

I'm not going to lie and pretend like I immediately understood every poem in this collection. In fact, there were some that I'm still not sure I really get even with the super helpful outros that followed every poem. But in my experience, that's kind of the nature of poetry. Sometimes I just don't get it, and these poems deriving from the Black experience, which I clearly do not have, left me with even less inherent understanding overall. But every poem in this collection was followed by a short explanation, so even when I didn't know what event the poem was referencing or drawing inspiration from while reading the poem, I still got that insight in the end. 

The poems that I did understand while reading the first time, hit kind of hard. They tended to reference more recent events, and while I still can't entirely relate to the experiences described, I felt like I was getting a different perspective on the events, often deeper or more personal. 

I will likely revisit these poems at some point in the future, and like with most poetry, rereading will hopefully increase my understanding of the themes even more. Overall I give this collection 4.6397 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Amber McBride is currently an assistant professor at the University of Virginia. She received her MFA in poetry from Emerson College in 2012. She also served as the media assistant at the Furious Flower Poetry Center. Her poetry has appeared in various literary magazines, including PloughsharesProvincetown ArtsWillow Springs, the Cincinnati Review, the Rumpus, and others. She has been nominated twice for Best on the Net awards. Her debut YA novel in verse, Me (Moth), was a finalist for the Morris Award and National Book Award in Children’s Literature and won the John Steptoe–Coretta Scott King Award. Her sophomore novel in verse, We Are All So Good at Smiling, received four starred reviews.

Erica Martin is a freelance editor and a poet. Her debut poetry collection, And We Rise, was an ABA Indies Introduce selection as well as an ABA Indie Next pick. She has been featured by Oprah Daily and enjoys making a difference in the world through political activism, reading, and writing. When she’s not reading and writing, you can find her editing, baking pies, or watching The Vampire Diaries for the millionth time.

Taylor Byas is a Black Chicago native currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the first-place winner of the 2020 Poetry Super Highway, the 2020 Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets, and the 2021 Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry. She is the author of the chapbooks Bloodwarm and Shutter and her debut full-length collection, I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times. She is also a coeditor of the forthcoming The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume X: Alabama.

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