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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Campus Event: Three Contemporary Black Women Poets

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On March 25, Westfield State’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, along with the English and Ethnic and Gender Studies departments and the student-run club S.A.I.L sponsored readings and a conversation with three amazing black women poets for Women’s History Month.

The event, called “Three Contemporary Black Women Poets”, highlighted three accredited black women poets with a Q and A at the end of the zoom. The women, Amina Jordan-Mendez, Lynne Thompson, and Patricia Smith each had their own unique style of poetry, but there was a central message for all the poems.

Jordan-Mendez, a Western Massachusetts native, talked about sexism in relationships with her poem, “When a Man asks for Instructions.” Jordan-Mendez also spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement with her poems “Our Streets” and “I am not a thing to be hurt.” The line “Like bullets in your sleep,” from “Our Streets” was a direct call out to the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor in 2020. Jordan-Mendez’s young power was breathtaking and gave everyone a lot to think about.

The second speaker, Lynne Thompson has won numerous awards like the Perugia Press Prize for her work, “Beg No Pardon.” She is also the future poet laureate for the city of Los Angles. Thompson focused on the mother-daughter relationship that black women have with her poem “Cryptogram.” The line “mother only wanted to speak of collapse” was symbolic of the harsh realities a black mother may have to teach her children.

Thompson also talked about the power struggle that women face compared to men in “First Person,” where she spoke the lines “buy your dreams a dollar down” and “time is a rubber band and up is always up-ended”. Thompson’s beauty of imagery brought the whole house down.

The final poet was Patrcia Smith, an author and winner of the 2018 NAACP Image award and LA Times’s Book prize in 2017. She too also spoke about the mother-daughter relationship black women have with her poem, “Mom + Evening in Paris,” with lines like “Chicago said reek like a city girl, reek like a city, girl” pertaining to the struggles one may have living in the city. Smith also had a poem loosely titled “Goodbye 2020”, which spoke of the cruelty towards black people that was shown in 2020 and the police’s even harsher actions.

One of the final lines spoke about how soon there will be nothing left of “us,” referring to the unfair treatment of black people. “Soon we will run out of shirt/ then we will run out of skin/ then we will run out of breath.” With these readings, Smith gave full power to each word, as evident in “Goodbye 2020”.

At the end of the readings, there was a question and answer where participants could ask the three authors questions. The authors spoke about how the pandemic was a good thing for poetry, since you can access almost any art form from the comfort of your home instead of going to open mics. There was also great advice given on how to overcome writer’s block such as reading all genres, not addressing that you have writer’s block, and writing every day.

Three Contemporary Black Women was a fantastic event to celebrate Women’s month this March. I left this meeting feeling speechless about the beauty I had just witnessed.

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