Thursday, November 26, 2020


It seems strange to be hosting Poetry Friday after I haven't participated, at all, for almost six months. Haven't even written on my blog for the last six months. And yet here I am. Eight months into the pandemic. Months and months and months of remote teaching. Nine days into quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive at work. The week after a fabulous virtual NCTE. The day after Thanksgiving. 

I decided I would share a new favorite poetry book, WOKE: A YOUNG POET'S CALL TO JUSTICE by Mahogany Brown, with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood. 

From the introduction

 What does it mean to be woke? 

In the simplest sense, it means to be aware. It means to see your surroundings and challenge how we strengthen our relationships with the government, with community, and nature.To be woke is to fight for your civil rights, and the rights of your neighbors...

To be woke is to understand that equality and justice for some is not equality and justice at all. We must stay alert. We must ask hard questions. We must stand for what is right, even when it is difficult and scary. 

The poems in this collection come from three women writers with varied perspectives of justice. 

The opening poem:


by Mahogany Brown

Our voice

is our greatest power

When we stand together

We can speak up against mistreatment

We are saying that we will not be silent about the mistreatment of people

We are saying we will not be silent

We are standing tall and firm because we believe in equity and equality

We are standing tall and firm

We are not yielding or bending because the conversation is uncomfortable

We are not yielding or bending

We understand activism happens online and offline

In the streets picketing 

and in the classrooms teaching

on the blogs writing

and on the internet sharing information

It happens everywhere

It is active

It is energy

It is resisting to be comfortable

Until we all feel safe and free.

I’ve Been There Before

By Olivia Gatwood

when a person is in pain

sometimes the best cure

is to hear I’ve felt that too

from someone else. 

when you cry and your best friend

puts their hand on your shoulder, and

says I’ve been there before

suddenly you know you are not the only one

sometimes, we don’t know the people

we feel for. sometimes, we’ve never been

where they are, but we don’t need

to look like each other or speak like each other

or live like each other to know what it feels

like to be sad, to be hurt, or to be in need of a friend

instead, we can simply say the words

I understand, we can make a secret club

out of our sadness, we can let everyone in

who wants to join, we can sit in a circle

and laugh and share, sing over and over

you are not alone.

Thanks for coming by today. Add your link below.

(I have never done it this way before, so if it doesn't work, feel free to put your link in the comments and I'll do an old-fashioned roundup tomorrow!)

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!


Janice Scully said...

Carol, thanks for hosting and what a great post! I hear the word "woke" sometimes by those on the far right? It's as if it's been appropriated. Such strong voices in these two poems. I am feeling some hope because of the election. Anxious for the transition to be over. Have a peaceful holiday!

Michelle Kogan said...

Thanks for sharing this poignant and rich poetry anthology Carol, I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks also for hosting the roundup this week. Wishing you continued health and happiness throughout the holidays!

Carol Varsalona said...

It is so good to have you back on PF, Carol. Thanks for hosting. I am working on my blog post but wanted to wish you Happy Thanksgiving and reply to your post.
Love these lines from the first poem: "When we stand together/We can speak up against mistreatment." We all need to have our voices rise and "understand" "to be woke".

Liz Garton Scanlon said...

Welcome back, thank you for hosting and for doing your part to wake us up.

mbhmaine said...

Thanks so much for hosting and for your review of "Woke". I'm sending all sorts of positive thoughts to you as you finish up quarantine. Take care!

laurasalas said...

Welcome back, Carol. Wow. What a year. No wonder you've been absent from here (and missed). Sending hugs and health as you deal with all of this. Thank you for working so hard to support kids in these hard times!

Robyn Hood Black said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Carol, to you & yours! Thank you for sharing this timely anthology of important voices. Those lines about making a ‘secret club/out of our pain....” wow. Wishing you good health! Such a year for all of us, on level after level.

Alan j Wright said...

Thank you for hosting Carol and your return is brimming with worthy detail. I like poetry as activism inherent in the call for social change and justice. Young voices raised in such a positive call. I appreciate you alerting us to this book. I shall be adding it to my collection. Poetry deserves a broad spectrum of applications and in these challenging times this books appears timely.

Catherine Flynn said...

Thank you for hosting today, Carol. So glad you're back, and fingers crossed you stay well. I've also found it challenging to write and blog during these topsy-turvy days. WOKE! is an incredible collection and deserves to be heralded far and wide. Olivia Gatwood's poem pretty much sums up what we're all longing for: a time "when we can sit in a circle/and laugh and share, sing over and over/you are not alone."

Liz Steinglass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara said...

Thank you for hosting during a challenging time, and for the reminder we are not alone. Even as the rest of my writing life feels more disconnected than ever, Poetry Friday keeps me grounded. This is a place for all of us!

Liz Steinglass said...

Hi Carol, welcome back. I'm glad you are here and hosting today. I come and go too. That's what seems to work for me these days. Thank you so much for sharing this book and these poems. I will be sure to find it and read all of them. I hope the rest of your quarantine goes well and you stay healthy.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Carol, it's good to have you with us today. I'm certain that there's been a higher degree of "intermittency" for all of us as we've struggled to find new rhythms, and maintain equilibrium. I'm glad you're enjoying this book--my NCTE committee selected it for the Notables List (but maybe you saw that!). May we all work hard to get--and stay--woke!

jama said...

Hi Carol, Nice to visit your blog today!!
Thanks for featuring this new book and sharing the two sample poems. So timely; seems like a must-have for all classrooms and school libraries.

Hope you and your family are doing well. Thanks so much for hosting this week!!

Carol Labuzzetta said...

Hi Carol, Thank you for hosting and for the book recommendation. Unlike Janice Scully's comment, I have only heard the use of the word woke from the far left. All should be aware of the word and its meaning, in my opinion. I used it this week in the more traditional sense, but it gave me an occasion to actually look it up to more clearly define the newest use of the word. I like your simple definition of being more aware. Thank you, again!

tanita 🎈 said...

Thanks for hosting today, and for your review of WOKE, a book on my tbr list!

Susan Bruck said...

Hi Carol, Thanks for hosting and for sharing about what looks to be an awesome book. I really enjoyed the 2 poems you shared from it. The first one is a powerful call to action, but the second one really resonated with me--the power of not being alone in our pain, "I've been there."
I hope you stay well and it's great to see you again here on Poetry Friday!

Mary Lee said...

Belated thanks for hosting (and for the spotlight on WOKE), and continued thanks for your friendship!

Carol Labuzzetta said...

The link to my poem was an old link. I am not sure how this happened. The graphic is correct, but it links back to a poem I wrote about in 2019. Here is the correct link for yesterday.

Jan/Bookseedstudio said...

Appreciations for hosting.

And for returning to Poetry Friday with these important poems & thoughts.

Best week ahead to you & entire upcoming December.


Ramona said...

I'm too late to link up to the gathering, but I did write a poem this morning (I've been trying to write a poem a month). Nothing like getting in under the wire (last day of the month).
I reluctantly returned Woke to the library recently. It's a powerful book! Thanks for the poems you shared.
Hoping that your quarantine is finished and all's well. It's no wonder you haven't been writing on your blog with the demands of remote teaching. Hugs, Carol. Good to hear from you.
I had planned to attend NCTE in Denver, but I didn't participate virtually. Would love to hear more about it.

Ruth said...

Thank you for hosting, Carol!