Guest Post by Catherine Hayes
Taylor Byas’s poetry collection Bloodwarm is an inspiring and modern commentary on what it means to be a Black woman living in a society where “I’m/seen as a threat” simply because of the color of her skin and sheds new light on the strong presence of racism within a variety of situations. The book opens with the inundation of Tweets surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, capturing “rubber bullets / pinging a reporter and her crew as they run for cover” and “a police car plowing into a peaceful crowd” all while “white friends” will promise to “do better” before they “bullet into our inboxes and ask us to hand them the answers” about what they should do or say. From there, Byas examines other aspects of racism and the lack of representation of the Black community in the media by putting into perspective the archetype of the damsel in distress of a superhero film. Byas describes how the women who “look like Kirsten Dunst or Emma Stone” are “dainty enough to be rescued by a white hero” and any type of confrontation between the speaker and a white woman would lead to “there is an African-American woman threatening me” and “call the police.” Byas does not shy away from reflecting the struggles that the Black community faces, and what it means to “have to stand / between / invisible” simply to avoid unjust persecution based on skin color. Yet peace in the racial conflict is difficult to achieve because “this is / the standard / this denial / the / rebellion against / negotiations”. Byas does not shirk from the ugly truth of the impact racism has had on the Black community, and her openness in discussing these topics allows for the possibility to have more honest and fruitful conversations about how to create lasting and truly impactful change in society.
Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas. Variant Literature, July 2021.
Reviewer bio: Catherine Hayes is a graduate student in English at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts and resides in the Boston area. She has previously published a nonfiction essay in an anthology with Wising Up Press. When she is not reading, writing, or reviewing she can be found exploring Boston, spending time with family and friends and looking for inspiration for her next story in the world around her.