The Unapologetic and Thriving Voices of Women of Color

With the rising of independent publishing and the production and ease of access for eBooks, more and more poets  find alternative methods of publishing their poetry collection. Anywhere from a zine on Tumblr or independent companies such as Where Are You Press, more and more poets and writers or prose and short stories turn away from traditional publishing companies and traditional mediums with which to publish their works.

Worlds Dance and Where Are You Press are examples of two independent companies that sell, publish, and curate works from female poets on the web. They feature some prominent poets that are women of color. Their books such as Mouthful of Forevers written by WAYP founder Clementine von Radics appeals to a young female audience but does not discuss the issues faced by women of color. Both companies feature works that are popular by young adult women girls on the internet. Von Radics poetry that has been published online is often reblogged an average of 500 to 5000 times. Her popularity on the microblogging site, Tumblr, sheds light on different mediums that contemporary poets are turning to.

I preface with the alternative publishing companies that many poets will turn to, to get their works published. Others will start blogs on the same site, Tumblr to get their work out there. Azra Tabassum, known by her Tumblr username 5000letters has a book with words dance but is frequently featuring her prose works on her website.

Similarly, Rupi Kaur reached fame on Instagram, a photo site owned by Facebook. She not only featured her poems but her drawings. Each poetry work features a drawing completed Kaur. Her poems cover topics ranging from immigration, heartache, issues with mental health, and her relationships with other women. Her Instagram was a point of contention in 2015 as she featured a photo of blood-stained sheets and sweatpants – a visual reminder of women’s menstruation. Her photo was part of a series but was removed due to the Instagram Community Guidelines twice. Kaur argued that the very reason that so many were disgusted with this visual reminder that women bleed, is the very reason it must be published. Instagram has since apologized to her and labeled the removal as a “mistake”. Rupi Kaur’s book milk and honey has been featured as a New York Times Best Seller and was self-published. While the book is available for purchase, Kaur features the majority of her works on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Another poet that has one e-book on Amazon is Warsan Shire. The Shire’s poetry gained international fame in the summer of 2016 as it was prominently featured in Beyoncé’s Lemonade Visual Album. Interlaced with the pop diva’s unique art style is the Somali poets’ works. When Beyonce isn’t signing, she is reciting the works of Shire that deal with themes of infidelity, racial stereotypes & racism, and metaphors that artfully represent their complicated emotions. The incorporation of Shire’s works in the visual album, the spoken word on the tracks, and throughout the themes of the songs has given the poet another medium to explore her craft. Her work is unapologetic, complicated, and often times graphic in details. It is rumored that she is publishing a collection of her poetry featured in the visual album that is slated for release in late 2016, early 2017.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s work The Vergining Cities is similar to Kaur’s milk and honey and the works of Shire as all three artists do not shy or ‘censor’ their topics of discussion in their poetry. Kaur casually brings up women’s menstruation, undoing all taboos surrounding a normal, female bodily function. Shires speaks honestly about her anger, her rage, and her jealously regarding infidelity. She compares her lover to her father, disappearing like a magician and leaving her to fend with all of her emotions. Scenters-Zapico does not shy away from the hard topics surrounding the violence around the border. She discusses these topics in her poems, writing about how easy it is to abduct young men and women for an adult’s sexual pleasure and the rape of women in the crossfire of the violence in Juarez.

Scenters-Zapico reminds me of Kaur and Shire’s works, as they do not shy away from ‘hard topics” or suppress their complicated emotions. Their poetry is an expression of the pain they face as women of color in the face of contemporary racism and sexism.

Citations

Von Radics, Clementine. “Clementine Von Radics.” Clementine Von Radics. Tumblr, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Scenters-Zapico, Natalie. The Verging Cities. Colorado State Uniersity: Center for Literary, 2013. Print.

Perrott, Lisa, Holly Rogers, and Carol Vernallis. “Beyoncé’s Lemonade: She Dreams in Both Worlds.” Film International. Http://filmint.nu/?p=18413, 2 June 2016. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Bobel, Chris. “The Year the Period Went Public.” (2015): n. pag. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Kaur, Rupi. “Rupi Kaur (@rupikaur_) • Instagram Photos and Videos.” Rupi Kaur (@rupikaur_) • Instagram Photos and Videos. Instagram, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

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