“Less is known of this black female rage. There is usually no place for it.” – Gina Athena Ulysse
I live for the collections that rage and question, that are unabashed in their depiction of language and culture, and that reclaim what has been stolen. One such collection is Gina Athena Ulysse’s Because When God is Too Busy: Haiti, Me, and the World. Combing photographs, poems, and creole chants, here we have a collection that is uncut in its desire to name and take back what it means to be a black Haitian woman in the 21st century. Because When God is Too Busy places the body as center as it draws inspiration from family, history, and politics. Every poem is dangerous in its attempt to unearth the silence inside of us, and the speaker tells us from the beginning that she “ha[s] a complicated relationship with silence” (20).
Because these poems are a shout against shame, they are raw and empowering to read. In the poem “Circles of Power Children of Resistance, or My Rules of Engagement” the speaker asks “why is it that everywhere we go in the world / darker skinned people are always at the bottom / always at the end of the line?” (78). Each poem in Because When God is Too Busy pokes and prods, asking the questions that many have failed to voice. The speaker exposes the years of trauma and oppression her and her people continue to experience: “blood has been shedding in South Africa black blood colored blood” (45). The poems oftentimes break form, and utilize heavy repetition, lending themselves to being read out loud.
In the poem “Parallels My County’s in the Newspaper” the speaker expresses her outrage at the question “Where you from?” that oftentimes comes from people who wish to other her. The complex relationship the speaker has with her country is exposed in this poem as she attempts to reconcile her love for Haiti while acknowledging the following: “yes, we have a history of fucking over our own . . . I’ve come to see that my country’s fucked up” (58). The tension the speaker feels is also shown in the choppy line breaks and displaced chunks of texts.
Because When God is Too Busy is split into four sections. The cover is stunning, and so are the photographs in the collection. The photos expose the ruin, the beauty, and the art work in Haiti. I love how these poems are written, and how powerful this collection is as a whole.
Buy Because When God is Too Busy: Haiti Me, & The World here.
*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about Wesleyan University Press: “Wesleyan University Press has an editorial program that focuses on poetry, music, dance, science fiction studies, film-TV, and Connecticut history and culture. Publishing in its current form since 1957, Wesleyan University Press has published an internationally renowned poetry series, collecting five Pulitzer Prizes, a Bollingen, and two National Book Awards in that one series alone. The mission of Wesleyan University Press is to develop and maintain a sound and vigorous publishing program that serves the academic ends and intellectual life of the University.”
(Photo of Because When God is Too Busy courtesy of Wesleyan University Press)
View Ulysse on TEDx below.