Aracelis Girmay received a red typewriter in seventh grade, and she never looked back. Just like the young poets at Urban Word, she figured out early on that writing poetry could change her life, and the lives of everyone around her. She said it better than I ever can:
"When I was 13, though, I read The Bluest Eye, I remember thinking: Oh, god, we're allowed to write like that? The way we think? The way people talk? The ways my people talk? Oh, really? It opened up this door of permission — I didn't know, really, that writing could represent me, not until then. wow, something in the way that I perceived writing and reading changed in me then."
There's a lesson here for you poets out there: There are no rules to writing, especially when it comes to poetry. Spelling, punctuation, the very words themselves. They are all yours and no one can tell you what goes where.
Raised in California, Eritrean by descent, and a lover of “Eritrea, mangos, and the smell of gasoline,” Girmay is a unique poet whose voice demands attention.
On Wednesday, August 10, from 3 to 5 p.m., Girmay will stop by Urban Word to help you find your voice and show off what's inside you. If you can't make it to the Master Poetry class, Urban Word will be livestreaming the class, so you can watch it no matter where you are in the world. Follow @urbanwordnyc for poetry prompts, links to audio and video, and more information. After the Master Poetry class, head down to the nationally-known Bowery Poetry Club for a reading, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Until then, here's a poem from Girmay, courtesy of her 2007 book, Teeth:
SANTA ANA OF GROCERY CARTS
Santa Ana of grocery carts, truckers,
eggs in the kitchen at 4 am, nurses, cleaning ladies,
the saints of ironing, the saints
of tortillas. Santa Ana of cross-guards, tomato pickers,
bakeries of bread in pinks & yellows, sugars.
Santa Ana of Cambodia, Viet Nam, Aztlán
down Bristol & Raitt. Santa Ana.
Boulevards of red lips, beauty salons, boomboxes, drone
of barber shop clippers fading tall Vincent's head, schoolyards,
the workshop architects, mechanics.
Santa Ana of mothers, radiators, trains.
Santa Ana of barbecues.
Santa Ana of Trujillos, Sampsons, & Agustíns,
Zuly & Xochit with their twin lampish skins.
Santa Ana of cholas, bangs, & spray.
Santa Ana of AquaNet, altars,
the glitter & shine
of 99 cent stores, taco trocas, churches, of bells,
hallelujahs & center fields, aprons,
of winds, collard greens, & lemon cake
in Ms. Davenport's kitchen,
sweat, sweat over the stove. Santa Ana
of polka-dots, chicharonnes, Aztecs, African Fields, colombianas,
sun's children, vanished children. Santa Ana of orales.
Santa Ana of hairnets.
Patron saint of kitchens, asphalt, banana trees,
bless us if you are capable of blessing.
When we started, there were cousins & two parents,
now everything lost has been to you.
The house, axed, & opossums
gone. Abrigette & her husband John.
& the schoolyard boys underneath the ground,
undressed so thoroughly by your thousand mouths, Santa Ana,
let that be