A couple of weeks ago, the world of poetry lost one of its heroes. Ntozake Shange, an American playwright and poet who addressed issues relating to race and feminism and a voice that will forever be unforgettable, gave us one of the most visceral and heart-wrenching collections of poetry I’ve ever read. For Colored Girls (who have considered suicide /when the rainbow is enuf ) has in turn inspired countless other writers, particularly of colour, and set the bar for what you can do with this art form.
I was first introduced to her work through the highly-acclaimed (and somewhat unexpected?) Tyler Perry film (For Colored Girls) by a dear friend and it is still, to date, one of the most disturbing but necessary films I have ever watched; and a sincerely loved collection which now sits at the top of my TBR pile once again.
For Colored Girls was Ntozake Shange’s first work and she premiered it to high acclaim as a theater piece, though it has now been widely shown both on stage and on the screen.
A bold, heart-breaking, humorous, and thoroughly human and unapologetic exploration of black womanhood and feminism in general, there is not a single part of this collection that doesn’t touch you in some way. I still to this day have moments where I flash back to that scene in the film (seriously, watch the film!), smile at my favourite line (I found God in myself/ and I loved her fiercely–read the collection!) and laugh when I remember the dancing in the play (if you ever get a chance to see it staged! DO!).
All this to say, Ntozake Shange changed the game for many and her presence will surely continue to be felt. Rest in peace, Ms. Ntozake Shange. You articulated so much that had been unsaid for so many and we can only thank you for your words.