Brock alumna, writer and activist Lydia Collins has an inspiring resume of different avenues through which she makes her voice heard. She runs a blog, co-hosts a podcast and runs workshops at Brock. Her most recent accomplishment might be her biggest yet: the release of a poetry chapbook titled Angry. Black. Woman.
The chapbook features a selection of Collins’ poetry that explores what it means to be angry, black and a woman, as separate identities but also the ways in which these three unique identities work together.
“It was intentional to make it three separate words rather than one sentence of ‘angry black woman’, but each as three separate identities. So, it’s looking at the way the three identities can exist together,” said Collins. “It’s meant to challenge but embrace the stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’. All three can exist together, but it doesn’t need to be a bad thing.”
Divided up into three parts corresponding with the three words of the title, Angry. Black. Woman. explores a variety of topics.
“The first part is called ‘Angry’ and it’s all poems that are about being angry and letting out that emotion. ‘Black’ is related to race and ‘Woman’ is about womanhood and femininity and what that looks like for me — gender expression, love and relationships as well,” said Collins.
“It just shows how the three come together and intersect.”
Some are short and precise, while others are long and lyrical, but no matter the topic or length, Collins leaves a mark of raw sincerity on every page of Angry. Black. Woman. This is part of the reason Collins found herself drawn to poetry as a medium to get her messages across.
“I think what gravitated me towards poetry was the ability to say what I need to say in such a short, summarized and personal way that has a lot of raw emotion in it,” said Collins. “A good poem doesn’t need to be long — you can get what you need to say out even in two lines. They can still be super powerful in even a few words. It’s very straight to the point. It takes a lot of work, as well, to get your message out in a powerful way in such a short amount of words.”
While there were still hardships in the process, Collins stated a lot of freedom came with publishing the chapbook independently.
“There’s pros and cons, because doing things independently is more expensive, harder, takes more time and more resources in general that a lot of folks don’t have, but it’s also nice because you have more freedom in what you’re writing about, how you’re doing it, the timelines of when it comes out,” said Collins. “The thing with artists is, we don’t lack drive or capability when it comes to publishing work, we lack the resources and funding to actually do it.”
Luckily, Collins found a wealth of resources close to home: friends helped with the editing process and modelled for the pictures, taken by Brock alumnus and freelance photographer, Chris Lawrence. The funding, publishing and printing of the book were done with the help of the Student Justice Center and Brock Printing Services. Even realizing the potential to publish a book was found in speaking to other local poets who had published chapbooks.
In the end, the creation of Angry. Black. Woman. was well worth it — it’s a powerful piece of literature, and something Collins found awfully important to get out into the world.
“I think for young artists — especially for young girls and women, and especially for young girls and women of colour — we often tend to put the word “just” in front of our accomplishments, right? So, for a long time I was telling people ‘it’s just a chapbook’, ‘it’s just self-published’. But then, people would be like, ‘dude, you wrote a book! Give yourself some credit!’”
Collins also advised artists not to underestimate themselves and see the value in their work. “As artists and as writers, we have to start somewhere.”
A selection of Lydia Collins’ poetry and writing can be found at lacollinsblogs.ca. Copies of Angry. Black. Woman. can be ordered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.