by Suzanne Carroll-La Follette
Sha'Condria "iCon" Sibley created an identity poem written from third person point-of-view using the moniker Black Woman as a representation of the main character in this poem. Of course, in the world of poetry we cannot assume the speaker and the poet are one in the same, can we? Poetry has never claimed to be non-fiction, although we would often times prefer the poems that we love to be absolute truth. This poem may not be about Sha'Condria at all, but her words coincide with the action the audience is witnessing. Meaning, Sha'Condria describes the experience of a black woman sharing a poem with an audience full of white faces, "in front of a jury, Texas Grand Slam, who don't see her as their peers." She performed this poem at the Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival and she was being judged, by five judges in the audience that held up scores seconds after she finished her poem. This meta-poetry approach, of writing about what it's like to perform her poem, creates an incredible sense of now, that Sha'Condria builds on throughout the performance of the poem.
Why, then, do you think Sha'Condria decided to write this poem in third person, rather than first person? Poets and writers deal with this question constantly. Will my message come across more powerfully from a first person perspective, a point-of-view so personal others understand? Or, by using third person do I broaden the definition of "I" in the poem and invite more people under the umbrella of the experience? In this case, I would suggest that the latter is true. Sha'Condria created something amazing when she decided that Black Woman was going to be the main character of this poem, both in perspective and in repetition. Although she describes the specific experience of performing at a poetry slam in front of an audience, when she uses the name Black Woman her umbrella reaches out to everyone who has felt, "too insignificant to be acknowledged." In that moment, it doesn't matter if the audience has ever been a poet, has ever written a poem and taken the stage at a poetry slam. Poetry becomes a representation of any opportunity to speak, to be silenced, dismissed or to be heard.
If written in first person the repetition of Black Woman would become "I" and, it could shrink the audience of the poem. In this poem the repetition of "I" seems much less powerful than Black Woman, too singular for the cause of the poem, "Because Black Woman has become accustomed to having her babies slaughtered." In this line we can hear the voice of women who have lost their children to police officers and violent neighborhoods. We hear voices both current and ancient.
The use of meta-poetry in this poem reaches a height with the line, "Black Woman is told never to be heard, that she don't feel a thing, that the melanin and estrogen cancel out the human in her DNA." Just reading the line doesn't do it justice. Hearing the line delivered from Sha'Condria in a room full of people, attentive to everything she has to say, and feeling her words, defies the social norms Sha'Condria laid out in this poem. It's a poem that not only catches our attention but refuses to be ignored.