Black Poetry Day 2023 – Mo Viviane
October 17, 2023
Happy Black Poetry Day!
This day means so much to me. As a teenager growing up in a small town in Kentucky, I was given the opportunity to attend the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts back in 2011. I was accepted into the Creative Writing program, where most of my focus was on creating prose and poetry. Many of my influences have been Black poets such as Bianca Lynne Spriggs, Alice Walker, and Frank X Walker. This experience changed how I sought out writing and dug deeper into myself as a poet. I studied under many outstanding Black poets, including Cave Canem fellows Kelly Norman Ellis and Mitchell L.H. Douglas.
In my undergraduate studies at Northern Kentucky University, I was part of a small slam poetry group called S.W.E.R.V.E. (Spoken Weapons Engaged to Revolutionize Viewers Everywhere). I led many workshops and community gatherings for Black writers and allies at the university. Still, poetry has been something I use as a tool related to my spiritual practice in Hoodoo and many other avenues in my life. Poetry has always been about liberation, uplifting community, and making just for the sake of making.
One of my favorite anthologies is Circe’s Lament: Anthology of Wild Women Poetry, edited by Bianca Lynne Spriggs and Katerina Stoykova-Klemer. There are many other influences on my writing, such as Crystal Wilkinson, Poet Laureate of Kentucky (2021-22) and the award-winning author of Perfect Black. Many of her works have inspired me to lean into my Blackness and be truthful to myself–as a writer and to my community.
Most of my poems have turned into songs (that I hoard in my recordings app on my phone). Sharing this piece called “Gone” is super personal to me. It is a recording of my voice one year before starting testosterone and at two years on testosterone. This piece represents the memories that I hold with me and to remember that being Black and Non-Binary is not about erasing who I am, but recognizing every facet of my life and wholly leaning into myself in that.
I hope you enjoy it!