Remembering Mine: Exploring The Poetry of Women of Color

"Remembering Mine” will discuss poetry books, individual poems, and anthologies featuring poetry by women of African descent. It’s extremely difficult to publish a first collection of poetry, much less a second or third collection. As a result, I hope you find some new voices to support and some old favorites that will make you nod in recognition and smile. Since she inspired the title of this column, and I was able to study with her, a cue from Ms. Clifton was only fitting for my first poem. Clifton reminds us that we can do so much to generate interest in work by people with experiences similar to ours. We can insist on remember the beautiful and ugly parts of our circumstances, our history, successes, and challenges.

This is one of many short poems by Clifton that reminds us that everything we experience has a context. Everything connects us to a larger experience and a longer timeline. Recently, a student of mine asked me why should he go see or read ntozake shange’s for colored girls… since the title explicitly said that it wasn’t addressed to him. As a teacher, I reminded him (and the class) that literature opens up the breadth of our experience, whether it’s about us or not. If we remember, retell, and document our stories, then we’re aware there is not one way of being, one way of telling. We’re protected from the harsh words that aren’t always the truth. Clifton often talked about how children’s literature needed to offer windows for children to see the worlds unlike their own, but they also needed mirrors to see themselves in literature.

“why some people be mad at me sometimes” originally appeared in Clifton’s 1987 collection next, and is still in print in her volume of new and selected poems Blessing the Boats, released in 2000. Both books were published by BOA Editions. This poem reiterates that it’s a beautiful thing to look in the mirror, sometimes.

why some people be mad at me sometimes
they ask me to remember

but they want me to remember

their memories

and I keep on remembering
—Lucille Clifton

Tara Betts is the author of Arc & Hue. She teaches creative writing at Rutgers University. She represented Chicago twice in the National Poetry Slam and appeared on HBO's "Def Poetry Jam" and Jessica Care Moore's "SPOKEN." Her work has been published in Essence, Callaloo, PMS, That Takes Ovaries!, Bum Rush the Page, both Spoken Word Revolution anthologies, among other publications. You can find her on twitter as @tarabetts and at

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