October is associated with Halloween, a time of wearing masks and costumes. Most of us wear many costumes throughout our lives from uniforms to conforming to societies’ expectations of acceptable fashion. But for many of us Halloween is a time of unleashing our true selves, we can for one day be honest about who we hide from the world the rest of the 364 days of the year.
I spoke with a young woman this week about her poetry book, Speak. We talked about speaking our truth and unmasking ourselves. At twenty-four this lovely young woman knows who she is and has revealed her true self to her friends and family. I was in awe of her strength and courage as at fifty-eight I still feel as if I hide behind a mask of acceptability. Would people accept the real me, do I even know who that is. When I spoke with Lashanya ‘Shan’ Dudley and she shared her poetry, I saw the beauty in the raw, honesty of her words.
While I am not a poet myself, I am in awe of those who can touch your soul with their words. Shan has the talent to reach into the darkest depths and bring the truth into the light. She takes off the mask that has imprisoned her and reveals her true beauty. She gives voice to those who have been kept silent. Her words whisper a song and shout a charge to be heard over the din of peer pressure.
Good poetry should make you feel and make you think. Talking to Shan, she said “if you feel uncomfortable when you read my poetry, you should because I felt uncomfortable when I wrote it.” After she left, I couldn’t get her poems out of my mind. I did feel uncomfortable reading the poem, but I also felt sad and angry. As I ponder her words and how she put them together, I see there was also love and hope amid the anger and pain. This may have been Shan’s first collection of poetry, but I do not think it will be her last. She has a lot to say, and her words will touch you with their truth.
Speak is a collection of truth, raw, ugly, beautiful and soul-deep.