Review: Testify By Simone John

these poems are psalms
for slaughtered women.
— Ars Poetica by Simone John

Simone John is a poet, educator, and freelance writer based in Boston, MA. I had the pleasure of indulging in her first full-length book of poems titled Testify. My immediate sentiment after completing my first read through of this work was a deep frustration at not knowing about her sooner. The collection is geared toward shedding light on the ever forgotten Black woman, a subject very near and dear to my heart.  To the women that organize the protests just to be spoken over, the women that carry entire families on their backs just to give them a place to wipe their feet, the women that suffer in silence and are still told to quiet down, this book was created to pay back all of our due respect. 

When combat wipes out generations of men,
what is left of the women who outlive them?
When husbands and sons and grandsons are gone
who comes back to pull the mothers from the rubble?
— Widows by Simone John

John alludes to famed racially charged murder victims such as Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and Mike Brown in order to force the reader to look at the whole hard ugly truth of where Black women fall within the conversation of race relations in this country. We have all grown almost desensitized to the idea of a Black boy becoming a hash tag, but what about his sister? His mother? His grandmother? What does it mean for the Black woman who is left in the wake of these murders? And who will be left in the wake of her own?  Testify ventures to answer these questions through the painting of a very vivid picture of what it means to be a Black woman and how we must raise, protect, and mourn both Black men and ourselves. 

Her name is swallowed instead of spoken.
Her hash tag— trending until they kill the next black boy.
— A Brief History of Murder by Simone John

Testify contributes to a very important conversation centered on the neglect of Black women and the trauma that we must endure in solitude. She gives voice to these women in a way that both celebrates their strength and allows them rest. I would recommend this book to any woman of color that has ever felt her voice was not heard. This book is a gorgeous and haunting testament to what it means to be the target of erasure and still refuse to disappear into nothing. I look forward to following what this outstanding woman has in store for the future.  

This is why I am pretty face
pinched into mean mug.
— For Colored Girls Who Have Been Asked "What's Wrong" by Simone John

Thank you to Jack Jones for providing The Reign XY with the opportunity to review Testify.

Lindsay YoungComment