Discovering the Relevance of Words
Review by Courtney Myers
As I looked at piles of chapbooks spread across the coffee table, ripe for review, I couldn’t help but pluck this one from the bunch. Being a gutsy girl myself, the title demanded my attention almost as much as the featured authors did. Honestly, you had me at Patricia Smith, Andrea Gibson, and Sarah Kay.
Just as the title suggests, Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls (Write Bloody Books), offers up a collection of poems that touch upon every awkward, unlovely, hilarious, touching, beautiful and, most importantly, courageous moment of the teenage experience. As editors Karen Finneyfrock, Rachel McKibbens, and Mindy Nettifee, so perfectly state in their introduction:
We can’t control the world teenage girls will inhabit and participate in creating. But if we could give them one charm to tuck into their pockets, it would be courage. So, lieu of a sword, or a yellow brick road, here is a book. In it we have packed poems to shock you, and make you laugh, poems that will commiserate and grieve with you; poems that will inspire you, and give you what you need to face life with grace and guts. These are poems we wish we had had when we were younger.
And that is exactly what this collection serves up. From Patricia Smith’s “Should Been Jimi Savannah” to “Pretty” by Shaney Jean Maney, the words of these women pour music into your soul and let you pirouette your way back through your first love, first kiss, first misery, and first betrayal in a way that reminds you that we share a common dance.
Not every poem in this collection inspired the gutsy girl inside of me to raise her fist to the sky. Some seemed better suited to spoken word, others too obscure to be easily digested, but overall, this will be a book I place in my daughter’s hand and peek into while she sleeps to discover which dog-eared page has spoken to her heart.
by Brynn Saito
One day you will find yourself on the sharpest
edge of yourself. If you’re lucky
someone will answer the phone and say it’s for you
and you’ll come inside.
The voice is an open refuge.
Forgiveness is a tower of hands. Once when I was young
I walked through a clock then under a bridge and my whole life was lit
by a camel cigarette. I met a man
who was not your father but he played the jazz piano so we fell in to it
and let it reign. Of course
love is kind. But sometimes a person must pursue a plague
that could do some justice
to the storm within.
You will be thirsty too.
You will stop believing in September.
You will suddenly become aware
of the fact of your heart only when a part of it
goes missing. Well don’t believe
what they tell you. No one likes change.
One day you will find yourself resisting your own waking.
Try tending to the sacred
and see where that gets you.
Try rolling through your life like a rusted train through a stockyard nation.
Nothing fills a cup like moonlight. Nothing.
No one will twist you like a man
will twist you, but that’s the deal. That’s how books
get written. But don’t believe
what I’ve told you. Convince yourself.
Then burn the sage
and claw your way
through every oak on the rotting mountain.
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