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Souls of Forgotten Queens by Chengeto Mayowe

‘This is an open letter. To whom it may concern.’



‘Souls of Forgotten Queens’ is a poetry anthology by Chengeto Mayowe that speaks to victory, rebirth and reclamation of power. In a tone that is strikingly different from her debut collection, Deja vu, Mayowe sings a new song and one that has no sign of ending. Due to the fact that I also read the debut anthology, naturally I would juxtaposition the two, not in a way that seeks to pit the works against each other but in a way that seeks to explore the poet’s growth. ‘Souls of Forgotten Queens’ recognizes the pitfalls of life, the dirt and pain of loss (in all forms), it confronts the dark seasons and ultimately it highlights the work required in rising and embracing change. If anything, it is the title poem, that shows the reader the poet’s great sense of awareness and purpose.

The anthology is divided into three parts: ‘The Burning,’The Death’ and ‘The Rising.’These parts caption the life of a Phoenix which is said to be a symbol of renewal and rebirth. In ‘The Burning’ there is a flame set alight by life and its happenings. In this part, towards the end of life, certain seasons and versions of ourselves there is a certain memory that sparks that there could be more to it, there could be another life, another season and other versions of ourselves that can exist. Yet in order for it to fully exist, to bloom and stand a chance, the old must die. This means accepting and being active in change, laying ourselves down to burn the old and make way for the new. Is coexistence a possibility too? The poem ‘The Journey,’ highlights why there must be a fire, a picture of how the poet has found herself on such a journey is painted so there is experience to bet on. The beauty of it is that the journey is unending.

In ‘The Death’ there is an acknowledgement of the old, its mistakes, pains and unwanted forms but that is not the end of it, there is also a remolding, the invention, accountability, the building, forming and deforming of what the new version can be. Death is not the end for Mayowe, it is a breakthrough moment, not looking towards potential but inside capacity. In the poem ‘Heal the wound but leave the scar,’ Mayowe asks that the reminder that she was a warrior who had to fight before her rebirth, to not be erased and be left as the driving force to the future. I found myself thinking about fate, what about those who are set to be the life in/of the ashes and are never meant to rise, are they not also forgotten queens in a way? Is it not stepping into their truth, never catching a break, never growing into other versions? For life is a mystery.

In ‘The Rising’ there is a long moment of reclamation of power and a rebirth. It appears to me that the soul is the same but the being is new. It is not the rebirth of the old but the new which reminds that old forgotten queen that there is a soul. Are we not constantly burning, dying and rising as we journey through this life? No matter what that looks like for each of us, this anthology serves as a reminder that there is a possibility. Even in the face of fate, which better friends to walk with through this journey other than hope and willpower? ‘Questions,’ is a poem that bears the tone of someone who recognizes the power of their voice, the audacity in their eyes to see themselves for who they are and could be. Give yourself a chance and emerge is what Mayowe consistently reminds us in this anthology.

There are some poems that I really enjoyed, some I resonated with and others had me asking questions. That’s the beauty in any creative work. I struggled with the font, which was a bit too small for me. In some areas I felt that there was more telling than showing, I could hear that there is an epiphany happening but I wanted to see and feel it too. I appreciate that there is a glossary for some guidance as the poet makes use of some unfamiliar cultural and historical themes in some of her poems. I recommend this book to anyone looking for inspiration for change and hope.


Book Details

Title: Souls of Forgotten Queens

Author: Chengeto Mayowe

Genre: Poetry

Pages: 67

Publisher: Self published (2021)

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