Putting the ‘verse’ in ‘universe’ in ‘We Want Our Bodies Back’

Thursday, March 26, 2020 - 5:25pm

NOSELL

Ford Foundation

Chills. 

Chills flowed through me before, during and after reading Jessica Care Moore’s book of poetry “We Want Our Bodies Back.”  

She swiftly moves you with the stories that explode off each page. While defined by the feminist theme, Moore discusses other significant conflicts from the past and the present that are extermely relevant to our society, including apartheid and police brutality. She reveals her truth within these struggles, one that is powerful to witness. She does not hesitate to use her poetry as a weapon, emotionally wounding you with every line.  

Her poems kill. 

They shatter your heart and then piece all of you back together. It is an incredible honor to read these poems and immerse yourself within her life and the battles, people, pain and love that make her. She divides her verse into four parts, each section as drilling as the one before.

In each portion, Moore reflects on the beauty and consequences that accompany intersectionality in our society. She exposes issues of racism, misogyny, xenophobia and police brutality. She offers her lens as a Black woman through her honest reflections and thoughts. Her presence in each one of her poems is undeniable. 

And her voice is electric.  

Reading did not even feel like reading; it was as if Moore was in the same room, spitting out every line. I could hear her pain and grief just as loudly as I could hear her thankfulness and adoration. The way she sings in her poems brings them to life: With every mention of Aretha Franklin, I could feel the goosebumps that visit when I listen to her songs; with every drop of Detroit, I could see it: old and new. Historic and redone. Beautiful and remade. 

Moore writes about what she is passionate about. She writes about the people and places she needs. She writes about the people and places that need her. 

Moore writes because “The right now needed me.” 

The right now is what is left out of the news, the papers, the TV. Moore takes what society has forgotten and amplifies it on the page. With each stroke of her pen, Moore reminds us that the world is much bigger than we are. That the world holds artists we should encourage, women we should respect, men we should look out for and stories we should listen to.  

Moore puts the Verse in Universe. 

I wish I could express the extent to how stunning Moore’s verse is, but I struggle because the universe it creates is not written for me. Being white and not having dealt with the complex layers of racism and xenophobia Moore encounters makes some, if not most, of the work beyond my comprehension. But the fire that burns from her verse is undeniable. Though I cannot directly relate to all of her words, I can follow where the pages lead, and I can feel their weight. 

There is so much light in her poetry. It moves you, heals you, enlightens you. And while some of her stanzas cut the pages with sharp significance, others are fragile. But there is softness in her sharpness and fierceness in her fragility. The juxtaposing combinations keep each piece fresh and vibrant. The versatility of her voice is a gift. This metamorphosis is shocking and leaves electricity humming on the pages. 

What is most prevalent in each of her poems is the gratitude she expresses to the people and artists that save her, that inspire her, that lift her. She uses her gift to highlight those of others, and it is a radiant delicacy to witness. Her specific piece “Gratitude Is a Recipe for Survival” narrows in on this theme, but her gratitude is exposed in several of her pieces. 

Moore credits artists like Ntozake Shange and Joni Mitchell and expresses appreciation for her family; I only hope she knows how thankful we are for her.