can we speak in flowers.
it will be easier for me to understand.
It seems trite to say that Nayyirah Waheed’s groundbreaking (and self-published) first collection of poetry, salt, changed my life. Just like it seems cliche to say that I couldn’t choose just one poem as the introduction of this reaction post (incoherent praise doesn’t really count as a review). But salt oozes with a tumult of emotions that speaks to every woman, man, feminist, realist, human being. And every poem is, like she says, a whale in the body of a tiny fish.
there is you and you.
this is a relationship.
this is the most important relationship.
In late 2015 when I first joined Instagram, Waheed’s poetry popped up on my feed and I was instantly intrigued. This poet who could capture a whole year of heartbreak and healing in two or three lines, she was magic to me. I was sold. Fast forward to this December when I finally purchased both anthologies – salt and nejma – weighty by both shipping standards and emotional depth. And I fell further in love with her words.
my favourite kind.
that i can
Does she bring a whole new set of standards to poetry? Is she brimming with innovative concepts? Does she push boundaries, if only to blur the lines? Does she drip words on the page like warm honey, scattered ash, shattered glass?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
telling the truth you could not face
struck instead of tended.
— put the fire out (unburn)
She writes from a place of incredible self-honesty (or perhaps a place of enormous self-delusion?), tearing away the veils of social construct to access deeper inalienable truths. She reaches for our innermost humanity with gentle probing fingers. Her poems are like sunshine, coaxing our souls toward growth. She writes about issues of womanhood, manhood, feminism, activism, the struggles of a dispersed people. She writes about healing and how hard it is to get there.
if i write
what you may feel
but cannot say.
it does not
me a poet.
it makes me a bridge.
Poetry hasn’t really managed to tap into the mass market but for those of us who love discovering new (old) poets and their work, Nayyirah Waheed brings a welcome splash of novelty.
Salt and its successor Nejma are available on Amazon. They were on sale for Christmas but I think that ended. Good news is they will be on sale again, probably sometime soon. Maybe.