Article originally published in The Huffington Post by Priscilla Frank Arts Writer.
“The vulnerability and realness I’ve witnessed within the poetry world is unlike any other medium in my mind.”
In December, The New York Times invited noted writers, actors and public figures to share their favorite poems, reaching out to people like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Elena Ferrante Tavi Gevinson, Lena Dunham and Junot Díaz, among others.
After reading the published list, Tabia Alexine, a Los Angeles-based curator and creative, was disappointed. “It was a compelling group, but not as diverse and intersectionally colorful as I’d hoped,” she explained to The Huffington Post. Soon after, Alexine embarked on a project of her own, reaching out to young writers of color she admired to bring the original list the multiplicity both readers and writers deserve.
Alexine collected the perspectives of 20 new voices, each explaining the power of a single poem. “The responses reflect a spectrum of experience among the writers,” she explained. “But I did notice that several poems discussed discovery, social justice, and resistance through existence and survival.”
Looking forward, Alexine hopes future articles in outlets like The New York Times will represent a wider range of backgrounds and perspectives. And that the cultural landscape at large will follow suit. “I hope to see poetry and art by talented persons of color more widely distributed via TV, film, in commercials, at events, galleries, and conferences,” she continued. “I love seeing books like The Breakbeat Poets sold at major retailer, Barnes & Noble. I also believe performance poets and writers deserve increased honorariums for their work. I want to be a catalyst, pushing all of those things forward.”
Right in time for Black History Month, Alexine’s diversified anthology speaks to the importance of poetry to voices too often marginalized or silenced. “It can be such a powerful platform for truth-telling, disruption, affirmation, and empathy,” she said. “The vulnerability and realness I’ve witnessed within the poetry world is unlike any other medium in my mind. These 20 individuals are unapologetically taking up space and making noise as writers, activists, performers, educators, literary editors, students, and so much more.”
Learn about their favorite poems, and the stories behind them: