Women in rebellion: Finding your voice

Interests: Breaking Down Barriers How Do You Dare? Women's Wisdom (Seeking or Giving Advice)
Team HERdacity

Women in rebellion: Finding your voice

Women's voices have often found a strong outlet in poetry. Poetry distills the complexity of the human experience into a simple, powerful message that appeals to many. At the same time, poetry is open for interpretation, discussion, and reflection. As Alice Walker, a poet and activist, states:

“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”

For National Poetry Month, we asked the HERdacity team to share their favorite poems. From the silliness of Jenny Joseph’s Warning, to the raw honesty of Nayyirah Waheed’s Emotional Nutrition, these poems illustrate the strength of women in body, mind, and spirit.

Enjoy these and let us know if you have a favorite poem!

June Jordan // Oughta Be a Woman

Washing the floors to send you to college
Staying at home so you can feel safe
What do you think is the soul of her knowledge
What do you think that makes her feel safe

Biting her lips and lowering her eyes
To make sure there’s food on the table
What do you think would be her surprise
If the world was as willing as she’s able

Hugging herself in an old kitchen chair
She listens to your hurt and your rage
What do you think she knows of despair
What is the aching of age

The fathers, the children, the brothers
Turn to her and everybody white turns to her
What about her turning around
Alone in the everyday light

There oughta be a woman can break
Down, sit down, break down, sit down
Like everybody else call it quits on Mondays
Blues on Tuesdays, sleep until Sunday
Down, sit down, break down, sit down

A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Courage that cries out at night
A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Bravery kept outa sight
A way outa no way is too much to ask
Too much of a task for any one woman

Mary Oliver // Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Jenny Joseph // Warning

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Brianna Wiest // Salt Water

If on my last day
I were to greet
The person I could have become
I hope I am happy to be who I am
And I hope that I love her anyway

Nayyirah Waheed // Emotional Nutrition

i will tell you, my daughter
of your worth
not your beauty
every day. (your beauty is given. every being is born beautiful).
knowing your worth
can save your life
raising you on beauty alone
you will be starved
you will be raw.
you will be weak.
an easy stomach
always in need of someone telling you how
beautiful you are

Rudy Francisco // Untitled

she is more than just
another piece of land
waiting to be claimed.

she is a music note
waiting to be loved into a song.
she is an acoustic guitar
waiting patiently for the hands
that have been trained
to hold her properly.

she is a wind chime
in a cul-de-sac
and her skin is a melody
very few men
will have the pleasure of hearing

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