Joy blooms in Barbara Fant’s heartbreaking new poetry collection


Barbara Fant composed the poems that make up her new collection Garden vents over a number of years. As she worked, she had a larger narrative in mind, embracing the verses as a way to explore not only the trauma experienced by black women, she said, but more importantly the healing power of black women.

As the title of the book suggests, it was not an easy process, requiring constant maintenance of the floor. Indeed, even after time breaks with “But Tonight,” a poem that falls toward the back half of the collection and finds Fant shaking the “shining of racism” from his hair, there remain echoes of past pains, which continue to vibrate below the surface even after the poet has turned its petals towards the sun.

“I don’t intentionally use the term ‘happy.’ is seven months old but returns this week. for a book release at the Lincoln Theater Thursday, May 12, which will be accompanied by an exhibition courtesy artist April Sunamiwho illustrated the Garden vents cover. “Lupita Nyong’o quoted the great poet Kahlil Gibran, and she basically said that joy was not the absence of pain, but happiness in spite of itself. For me, joy doesn’t mean everything else goes away or is taken away, but it does mean you can have happiness in the midst of it all. And it is the belly of joy. It can coexist with pain, with grief. I’ll never get over my mother’s death, will I? But I am will get out of it. »

Fant addresses her mother’s passing in a handful of poems, including “Twice 15,” which Fant wrote at age 30, struck by the realization that she had now existed half her life without her mother, who died of a cancer when the poet was just 15.

“I learned a lot about my mother by talking to my aunt, her sister and her cousins. That’s how I pieced together my mother’s pieces, because I don’t know her, do I? I knew her as a young girl, but I didn’t know her as an adult,” Fant said. “As I get older, however, I remember my mother’s strength, her voice and her power. She was calm, but she was a threat. And I can see it in me. I don’t look like my mother – I think my sister looks a lot like her – but I recognize her spine in me.

Spending more time with her mother in the writing process, Fant said she learned to focus less on her grief, remembering the good times the two shared: dancing in the living room; turn off all the lights in the living room, curl up on the couch and pretend to be in the audience while watching a concert DVD; drive to the record store on the day of the new release. “Sometimes when you’re going through heavy trauma, when you look back, all you see is grief, all you feel is loss,” Fant said. “Writing this reminded me that there were so many happy times.”

The cover of "Garden vents" by poet Barbara Fant, featuring a painting by Columbus artist April Sunami

Of course, these discoveries came amidst a consistently tumultuous time, and the outside world remains an overwhelming presence in poems like “Instinct,” which references the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Ty’re King. , among others, and “Target,” which struggles with the mental weight of living overwhelmed by fear. “America, the barrel of a gun,” Fant writes, “coughs bullets through black bodies. “

Elsewhere, the memories become more personal, with Fant recalling his childhood in Youngstown, Ohio, where even the games kids played on the streets could spill over into real-life violence. In a poem, she recalls how neighborhood children played drive-by-shooter with water guns. “It’s like, oh, my God. Look what it doessaid Fant. “Violence begets violence, and you reenact that as a child, when you don’t even really know what you’re reenacting. … In a way, you don’t get the chance to be innocent, because you’re growing up in a space where you don’t have that luxury.

Despite the heavy nature of the material, a flash of light gradually sets in as the book progresses, terms such as “coffins”, “bullets” and “graves” slowly drifting away as Fant first finds comfort within her family (“For my sister:”) and finally herself. As this happens, Fant awakens to the transformative power of her words, a realization that surfaces in works such as ‘Watch Your Mouth’ and ‘Line of Throats’, in which she traces the soul of his poet through the generations, writing: “There are throaty journeys in my throat/a line of thunder in my blood.

” I have started to learn [the power of my voice] to be on the poetry stage, but also in my prayer life,” Fant said. “I have a deep prayer life, and I was probably in my early twenties when I started realizing, oh, wow, I have the power to call things into existence, or to call things what I would like them to be. Then also, as a writer, my words have the power not only to break but to heal.

This healing is evidenced most vividly in “It Could Have Been Our Blossom,” a poem that closes the collection and sets up the next stage of Fant’s life as she begins to take root in Los Angeles. Angeles. “Wherever you find yourself planted, may you find life,” she wrote. “May you be life, may you bloom.”

“My mom always loved the water, but never really got to see it, and now I live by the ocean,” Fant said. “My niece had never been on a plane, then my sister took her for the first time to see me. And I have to show her a whole new world, a whole new way of life, you know what I mean? It’s like you can do whatever you want. You can be where you want to be.

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