Articles, Book Review, Poems

Why You Should Read Mend: Poems

Three Stong Black Women by Mary Long on Shutterstock

What is Persona Poetry?

Mend: Poems is a book of persona poetry written by an Alabama-based poet named Kwoya Maples. Persona poetry’s a poetic form in which a writer assumes the role of their subject and writes in their voice. In Mend: Poems, Maples takes on the roles of three women: Betsy, Lucy, and Anarcha. These women are only three of the eleven Dr. James Marion Sims, the father of modern gynecology, subjected to experimental surgeries. He only named three of his subjects in his autobiography. All of these enslaved women had prolonged childbirths that resulted in stillborn children and vaginal injuries. He sent them to a crude makeshift hospital behind his home where they experienced incredible humiliation, pain, and violation of their bodies.

The Medical Field Racial Biases

One of the book’s themes is racial biases in the medical field and how they still affect black women today. For example, as the book mentioned, black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white patients. At the University of Virginia, they performed a study where students stated they believed black individuals had thicker skin and different nerve endings than the white individuals. This could possibly cause a medical professional to subject a black patient to more pain; which, could explain the statistic stated above.)

Having stated that, we shouldn’t forget the way the medical field has wronged the black population in the past. In the case of the voices of Mend: Poems, they were forgotten by time while Sims reached national fame. People dedicated monuments to his work in South Carolina, Alabama, and previously New York. Doctors still use some of the tools he developed to treat patients today.

Another example would be Henrietta Lacks, whose ovarian cancer tissue, doctors took without her consent and cultivated into the HeLa cell line—one of the most serviceable cell lines in the field. It took decades for her and her family to get the recognition they deserved. These instances, alongside cases such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, are screaming examples why the modern-day Black community doesn’t trust doctors.

Deserving of Tenderness

The book also explores the idea that black female bodies are “deserving of tenderness;” after a history of being broken, violated, and belittled, Maples wants readers to know how beautiful and worthy of love their bodies are. Black women have a history of people masculinizing them because of their blackness, but Maples rejects that idea in her poetry. Society cannot take away a black woman’s femininity or humanity.

Poetry like this is hard to read, but we as a society must face the problems threatening to tear us apart. Mend: Poems is a necessary book that speaks truth into those problems. It is a must-read.


For more like this, enjoy this GirlSpring contributor’s own poetic version of knowing, loving, and celebrating yourself and your worth.

Mya R

Hi! I'm an aspiring writer who loves her craft! My hobbies include reading, writing, sewing, watching TV (including kdrama and anime), and learning new languages.

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