In this, her fourth volume of poetry, Butterfly Thomas offers us her customary buffet of clever rhymes, plays on words, double entendres, reflections on relationships of many sorts, and sharp social commentary.
Seven of the poems, in the section Opening Remarks, are addressed to children who are growing up fast. There are also wrenching reflections on the mortality of both old and young. Just a sample of the variety the reader will find here: "The Meaning" talks about Christmas, "Crown" celebrates the diversity of Black hair styles, "Twisted Ladders" explores genetics, and "Detox" has a very surprising ending.
Google will be your valued companion as you seek the meanings of what will most likely be new words, names, and expressions for many. Those include chark, orishas, kete, oubliette, Anuket, Kemet, and on fleek.
But what is such deeply personal poetry if not an invitation to exploration? That's the point of it, its aim. Here, as in her previous books, the author not only invites you into her world and soul, but also into the wider world of reflection upon how her views and experiences align or contrast with your own.
What is a kaleidoscope? In the first poem in this book, Butterfly Thomas defines it as something that spans the spectrum from despair to hope. In this, her third collection of poetry, she invites you into an equally mesmerizing and ever-shifting world of emotions.
In "Broken II," she says: "I know the burden of dreams in flames / I know not okay goes by different names."
"Liquid Prayer," the title poem, is a tearful questioning of God: "Do you hear? Are you there?"
"Love is Blind" is a powerful commentary on disability as a too-frequent hindrance to romance.
"Samson and Delilah" presents a surprising and intriguing image of feminine strength and rebellion: "Me cutting my hair / Is a new kind of strong."
"Yonely" is the first of several erotic poems, and "Partner Prayer" is a brilliant summary of different stages of connection: intellectual compatibility, affection, intimacy, the companionship of travel, and then the commitment of marriage.
As in her previous books of poetry, Ms. Thomas' song–like rhythms, unusual rhymes, and sometimes highly original words are here to delight us, while the raw emotions she displays for us tumble our own like the colorful chips in a kaleidoscope: round and about, down and then up, from confusion to order.
I love words.
I love word play.
I love simile and metaphor, double entendre and innuendo.
I love reference and inference.
I love writing poetry.
Prepare to listen, learn, and be deeply moved as you read these 34 poems — most of them short, many of them angry, and all of them ringing with truth.
While the first several poems address historical outrages, such as slavery, lynchings, poll taxes, redlining, and medical maltreatment and neglect of Blacks, subsequent poems deal with more recent events that captured headlines worldwide, including the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. "May Day," a mere 12 lines long, is a powerful tribute to George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor's death merits two poems.
"The Conversation" is a heartbreaking expression of Black parents' need to talk with their young sons about the very real dangers they face in this society as they reach adolescence and adulthood.
As you read, as you listen, you will encounter not just strong emotions, but subtle literary references, ingenious rhymes, and compelling rhythms. "Freedom Song" has as its leitmotif the stirring beat of a drum.
It is easy to imagine many of these memorable poems being set to music. One can hope that someday soon, they will be.
Love and passion. Conflict and regret. Pride and defiance. Rage at equality denied. Deep compassion for friends and boundless love for one's children. These are just a few of the subjects touched upon by these 49 brief, powerful poems.
Some will fill you with shared sorrow. Many of them express anger at racial injustice and the exploitation of the disabled. Still others delight the reader with their images of strength and beauty or their clever arrangement of words.
Never pretentious or deliberately opaque, all of them are sure to make you think.
An urban thriller.
Shya's dying mother tasked her with taking care of her younger brothers, and the girl is trying hard to do just that. But it doesn't take long for the reader to learn that Shya is doing a lot more than being a loving, attentive sister and attending college. She's also working as a high end escort under her stepfather's control.
As the stepfather's demands increase, Shya sees no choice but to kick up her plan to squirrel away enough money to win custody of her brothers. Little does she know that one brother is doggedly pursuing the escape of drugs, while the other is being bullied and hopes to escape everything — permanently. More tragedy ensues as Shya gets caught stealing from the wrong person.
Can she save her family with bodies dropping all around her and a killer closing in? Will she lose everything for the pursuit of money? Can she keep her head held high in the face of so much adversity?
Butterfly Thomas was born in Germany to two military parents but was raised in Virginia, where she still lives. When she is not working her day job as a counselor and advocate, she spends her time with the two loves of her life, reading and creative writing. She is a lifelong learner and tries to make time to watch Jeopardy! every night. She also admits to a hopeless addiction to chocolate.