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Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems by Alice Walker

In the past few weeks I have realized that I grew up reading a lot of poetry and I have been leaning towards reading the collected poems of some old favourites. I knew ‘Dear God…’ before I could even dissect the importance and the place in history of The Colour Purple. Over time I have read Alice Walker’s essays and poetry that have not only reshaped my thinking but have also given me an opportunity view the world with eyes wide open. This is one of the beauties of art in its various forms.

Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems is an anthology of poems collected from 1965- 1990. In over one hundred and fifty poems written in twenty five years, Alice Walker takes us through various phases of her life through verse. The Anthology is divided into five parts/collections; Once, Revolutionary Petunias & Other Poems, Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You In The Morning, Horses Make A Landscape Look More Beautiful and We Have A Mother: Previously Uncollected Poems. Alice Walker writes about her lived experiences; joy, loss, injustice, womanhood, motherhood, love, culture, heritage, questions on life and purpose. She also dedicates some poems to special people in her life like her father and family, Bessie Head and other revolutionaries.

‘Once,’ is a volume of poems that Alice Walker wrote during her visit to Kenya and some at Sarah Lawrence University in New York. In this collection she writes about the image of Africa from her own perspective, the democratic order and the place of honour. In ‘Revolutionary Petunias & Other Poems,’ Walker writes about revolutionaries and lovers. The vulnerability in this volume gives the reader a real experience to hold onto in these dissenting times, they explore the gain and loss of compassion and trust. They give a hope that has sort of become deficient, the trust in love by and to humanity.

‘Good Night, Willie Lee, I’ll See You In The Morning,’ is a collection of poems that was written during a time when Walker had incurred so much loss. This includes the loss of her loved ones (assassinations in the sixties), the loss of her father in the seventies and the ending of her marriage in the mid seventies. In her time of barely holding on, the ink in her pen refused to run dry and it bled on these pages giving us lamentation that is filled with hope for change and forgiveness. The title of this collection are the words her mother uttered as she viewed the body of her husband, Walker’s father for the last time. ‘Horses Make A Landscape Look More Beautiful’ is a collection written to express grief over the loss of the earth, the acceptance of the good and the bad of the poets’s heritage.

‘We Have A Beautiful Mother,’ the final collection in this anthology is a collection of previously uncollected poems. In this part Walker says that poetry is inseparable from the heart and soul from which it comes. Poetry is recognized as a form that cannot be solicited, it visits the poet and when it does it overflows. The grace and abundance that the verses hold give one a sense of familiarity with the poet.

Here are some quotes from the book:

1. Explain to the women in the village that you are twenty and belong to no one.’ page 62

2. ‘The grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrows, is always a measure of what has gone before.’ page 155

3. ‘I thought love would adapt itself to my needs. But needs grow too fast; they come up like weeds.’ page 245

4. ‘Every time you say you love me I look for shelter.’ page 324

5. ‘I want to be with you in the pain and sadness of relief, of abortion in the pain and joy or horror, of birth.’ page 418

I enjoyed reading this anthology of collected poems, revisiting old favourites and discovering new verses that hold great significance. Most of the poems are relatable and the language is simple. The simplicity of the language makes it appear as if Walker were speaking to an old friend in conversation. This collection of poems is Alice Walker’s heart laid bare, her convictions emphasized, her mistakes/tribulations accepted and harnessed into a work of power. A worthwhile front row seat to the evolution of Alice Walker’s poetry. I highly recommend this book to all poetry lovers and anyone looking to start reading poetry.


Author’s Profile

Alice Walker is an American activist, award winning poet, novelist, short story writer and essayist. She has written seven novels, four collections of short stories, volumes of essays and poetry. Alice Walker was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983 for ‘The Colour Purple’ (the first woman of colour to win this award).


Book Details

Title: Collected Poems: Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990

Author: Alice Walker

Genre: Poetry

Pages: 480

Publisher: W&N (2005)

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