Poetry News

Ms. Magazine on Stephania Byrd

By Harriet Staff

Ms. Magazine's occasional Black Herstory feature recently covered the poetry of Stephania Byrd, a black feminist writer whose poems tackle questions of race, sexuality, and power:

Even though [Byrd's] 25 Years of Malcontent and A Distant Footstep on the Plain are long out of print, they are important books for a number of reasons. First, individually and collectively, the poems in these two chapbooks are a delight for readers. Secondly, Byrd’s poetry is part of a broad tradition of poetry by African American lesbian-feminists. The poetry of Audre Lorde is canonized widely, and deservedly so, but Lorde is one poet in a chorus of voices–a chorus that includes Byrd as well as Pat Parker, E. Sharon Gomillion, doris davenport, Sapphire, Terri Jewell, Jewelle Gomez, Ai and many others. Access to a broader array of African American, lesbian-feminist poets is vital to our history, literature and cultural heritage.

Though her chapbooks have been long out of print, they've recently been made available again through the Lesbian Poetry Archive. The Ms. blog quotes from "On Black Women Dying," one of the poems that's been made newly accessible again.

...what I’m trying to get at
is that in the last 30 odd years
of my life span
there has occurred
a series of events
which have culminated
in the death and near dying
of Black women
across the continent of Amerika
and the police
the FBI
the presidents and their committees
have told us
there is no connection
between these deaths
and the violence
done to us,
We have been reminded
shall be reminded
many times . . .
will you and I become
another unrelated statistic
in these series of events?

Read the whole piece here.

Originally Published: March 1st, 2012