Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.
In her forward, editor Diana Whitney explains that each poem in the collection is in conversation with poet Mary Oliver and her insistence in "Wild Geese" that “you do not have to be good.” After discussing Oliver's poem (included in the collection) with her daughter, Whitney realized she wanted to build something to remind young people that "we are already enough." Featuring poets from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, You Don't Have to be Everything is an affirming and powerful collection of voices, described by Whitney as
strong voices, lonely voices, angry, elated, or curious one. Voices from the LGBTQ+ community, turning their experiences into song. I wanted to find writers who challenge cultural norms and resist the stifling expectations of gender.
As a woman who menstruates, I loved the raging and empowering reclamation in Dominique Christina's piece "The Period Poem," which includes these knife-sharp lines:
The feminist politic part is that women
Know how to let a dying thing leave the body
How to become new,
How to regenerate,
How to wax and wane not unlike the moon and tides,
and also this section near the end:
So to my daughter:
Should any fool mishandle
The wild geography of your body,
How it rides a red running current,
like any good wolf, or witch, well then
Give that blood a biblical name,
something of stone and mortar.
Name it after Eve's first rebellion in that garden.
Name it after the last little girl to have her genitals
Mutilated in Kinshasa (that was this morning),
Give it as many syllables as there are unreported rape cases.
Name the blood something holy.
Something in hieroglyphs.
Something that sounds like the end of the world.
Unafraid to challenge cultural norms? Check!