I attended Sapphire’s reading on April 4th. Sapphire is the author of popular books like Push and Kid. The book Push was later turned into the film Precious. Her work has been translated into 13 languages and she often talks about race, poverty, and abuse. She read several of her poems and I am going to talk about a few. Before I begin talking about the poems themselves, I wanted to address the way she read the poems. Every poem she read was read in such a passionate way, or sometimes a really funny tone. No matter what the poem, it was evident the mood and tone she was trying to convey just by the way she was reading it.
The first poem I am going to talk about is Speaker of the House. This poem was about a boy who had been sexually assaulted by his former wrestling coach, who later became Speaker of the House. The poem is read from the boys perspective. When she begins this reading, her voice is really loud and stern, which tells me that she is very serious and angry about what happened. One of the lines of the poem that stood out to me was “The last time I was anything, I was with you, now I have nothing, watching you on TV.” This is the boy speaking about how he has nothing in life yet the man who ruined his life is now Speaker of the House and on TV. The boy often speaks of being afraid and nervous. He goes to a job interview and it is revealed to us that he cannot hold a job and he likes to engage in risky behavior like speeding on his motorcycle. During the time that this man, whose name is Dennis Pastor, was this boys wrestling coach, the boy says that he felt like number one because they won the state championship and he felt great to be a part of something. He said the way that Dennis looked at him “froze my blood” and Dennis said “I need you.” The boy reveals that Dennis knew he was gay and took advantage of him. When the boy went to college he was hit, raped, he never used condoms and ended up with HIV and couldn’t get hired for a job. I thought this was a really great poem, as sad and disgusting the situation is, I feel that it is important to bring light to situations like these and not just let them be swept under the rug.
The next poem was called Ode to Thighs. This one was read in a much lighter mood and it was pretty funny. However, it was read pretty fast so I didn’t catch most of it, she repeats that “thighs stay strong” and talks about all the things that her thighs get her through. She starts the poem with her getting on her bike to the YMCA, she cleans on her hands and knees, she cooked and cleaned for everyone. At the end she says “thighs stay strong, thighs are all I have.” I thought this was a really interesting poem because I don’t think I have ever read anything about someones thighs. She isn’t wrong either, thighs really do help you in life and I think the point she is trying to make is that throughout any hardships in life, she has her thighs and she gets through it all. She is also saying that she is a strong woman who doesn’t give up.
The next poem, I didn’t catch the name of and It was read really fast so I also didn’t get much of the poem. The poem is about her life and values and what she has come from. She is from Mississippi and she starts with saying that she doesn’t remember what cotton looks like in a bowl. This poem was a series of things she is “from” or has encountered. The few lines I caught were “from new money fast gone jailhouse, abortions, degrees of light, dark night, talking loud, hearing voices, fur and fires, slavery and Obama.” This is a series of random things, but I found it really interesting because it gives us a small glimpse into her life. The way she ends the poem had the whole room laughing. She says “I say yes ma’am and bye bitch.” I thought this was really funny and honestly kind of badass because that tells me that she is respectful when she needs to be and can really put her foot down and not take anything from anyone.
These were just some of my favorite poems that I heard that day and I am so glad I went. I will definitely be looking into more of her work and I highly suggest her work to everyone.