Cheryl Boyce-Taylor Recommends...

“Poetry has become my daily prayer ritual, my practice, and my religion. Every day the music of R. Carlos Nakai and words of Ntozake Shange bring me to my writing table. There, I fancy myself a vast ocean tumbling as far as the eye can see. As I write, I am not thinking about what does or doesn’t work. I am purely putting words down, knowing that there will be time for editing later.

If I’m feeling blocked, I begin by editing poems that I’m not satisfied with. Sometimes I make lists of countries or cities I’ve visited or want to visit. Often I recall favorite dishes from my childhood and revisit the occasions. I add names of family, friends, spices, colors, and flowers. I write family stories to remind myself that my family history, culture, and dialect are my legacy. I always want to keep my legacy alive.

On blocked days I think of Ntozake Shange's words: ‘The dancer goes to the barre every day. You have to go to your writing table every day.’ When stories feel too painful to share, that’s when I dig in and fill the page. After all, that’s where the gems really are.”
—Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, author of Mama Phife Represents (Haymarket Books, 2021)