Yasmina Nuny Silva is a Guinea-Bissauan poet, spoken word artist, research consultant and magazine editor who was born in Portugal, lived in several African countries, received her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Birmingham (UK), and lives, works and performs there. Anos Ku Ta Manda is her first published book, which is a collection of powerful and touching poems about her homeland, her passionate transatlantic love with her partner, life as a Black woman in Britain and a person of color in these difficult and challenging times.
This poem, titled 'Free', is from the page about her book from Verve Poetry Press (https://vervepoetrypress.com/2019/03/29/yasmina-nuny/?v=7516fd43adaa):
I have loved myself to this
To this state.
Enough to preserve when needed,
cry when needed,
war when needed.
Shave, regrow, rebirth
Bloom where it is possible,
learn from all of it.
Unlearn to apologize for it –
We been there already,
done that already.
No longer at peace with disrespecting
I liked this poem, but many of the others in this book were even more powerful. The following is a link to a YouTube video of Nuny reading one of those poems, 'A Word to the Black Girls': https://youtu.be/h3iJR5-xeLo
Anos Ku Ta Manda closes with poems by two rising Black British writers, Darnell Thompson-Gooden, a British man of Jamaican heritage whose 'Poems about her' is a moving tribute to a former girlfriend and how she enriched his life, and Ayò, a Nigerian-born poet and medical student, whose poem 'I've Lost My Tongue Help me!', published in Yoruba and English, describes the loss of her mother tongue and her connection to her homeland.
I look forward to reading more of Yasmina Nuny's work, and seeing more of her spoken word performances online or in person. You can read more about her on her web page, https://www.yasminanuny.com.
And from South Africa, Railway Poetry presented by Zolani Mkiva, a collection by many authors. In many African countries the railways were at one point one of the largest employers in the nation, and played a major role.
Shauna Barbosa was born in Boston to an Cape Verdean father and an African American mother. She received her MFA at Bennington College in Vermont, and currently teaches in the Writers' Workshop at UCLA Extension. Her poems have been published by numerous sources over the past decade, and her first collection of poems, Cape Verdean Blues was released by Pitt Poetry Press in 2018, which was a finalist for the PEN Open Voices Award the following year.
Cape Verdean Blues is named for the 1966 album The Cape Verdean Blues by the famed jazz pianist Horace Silver, which itself was composed in honor of Silver's Cape Verdean father John Tavares Silva. This book similarly honors her father's homeland, along with her personal life and loves, the lives of working class people of Cape Verdean descent whom she encounters, and the beauty of that lush country.
One of my favorite poems in this collection honors the late Cape Verdean morna singer Cesária Évora, which is available on her website, https://www.shaunabarbosa.com/:
To the Brothers of Cesária Évora
I’m at the jazz bar
staring at the saxophonist
looking for the entry wound.
My curated movements
are all pretend
darkness don’t equal depth.
He’s looking for mind, too.
Me too is not the same
as hang in there. All rhythm
no blue like swinging
arms are all form of measurement.
The sax to body position, dead skin
cells to household dust
flying across the world
doesn’t compare to noticing
your only bookmark is a pair
of scissors, to cut
means leaving the big tune.
No more pretend this place
smells how it looks outside
at dawn on September’s first
turning from hopeful to who
can I talk to alive or six-feet under.
one last wound tune
for my brothers, all colors ranging
bread, coffee, blood sausage, and
gaslight. No one wants
a black mouth brother
I know, you don’t want to be
cause it’s difficult to be
brown mouth with a hopeful open
no more pretend not knowing
that speaking Portuguese
at the traffic stop
won’t save you.
The poems, like Cape Verde itself, are quite lyrical in their use of language, but unfortunately I did not fully connect with many of them on a first or second reading. As a result, I've given Cape Verdean Blues a 3½ star rating for now, but I'll return to this collection and possibly increase my rating after I give her work another try.
As the country marks a decade since independence, musicians talk of the songs and rhythms that help create a shared culture and community for people displaced by civil war...
Maybe not strictly about poetry, but musical lyrics and poetry are intertwined.
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