POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo

“The pages of my notebook swell from all the words I’ve pressed onto them. It almost feels like the more I bruise the page, the quicker something inside me heals.”⠀

Poet X is about Harlem high school student, Xiomara Batista, discovering the art of slam poetry. Batista doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in her world but instead lives within the words of her journals and poetry. An attentive English teacher at her school convinces quiet Batista to join the slam poetry club. After much hesitation, she finally joins and finds not only friends and acceptance but ultimately finds her voice. And once she has discovered this liberating method of communication, she will no longer be silent.⠀

As Batista emerges from her shell, she eventually finds new love in Aman. “Every time I think about Aman, poems build inside me. Like I’ve been gifted a box of metaphor Legos that I stack and stack and stack. I keep waiting for someone to knock them over.”⠀

This book is replete with thrilling word imagery. Acevedo manages to take our shared human experience and make it sing. “When she asked how I was doing, the words trip and twist their ankles trying to rush out of my mouth.”⠀

I listened to the audio version of Poet X. There is only one other book I would suggest people listen to the audio over the written word: Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg. Poet X is enhanced by listening to the author’s reading of it. She reads it in an almost spoken word style. It is melodious and inspiring. I cannot recommend it highly enough.⠀

I am a fan of the performance art of spoken word. Many decades ago, my mother ‘gave readings’. The art of performing words is unique and celebratory and deeply moving. My mother (a career, 7th grade English teacher) was often asked to perform her pieces and I was honored to give one of them at her funeral. Poet X brought back many happy memories and increased my appreciation of such a compelling method of communication.⠀

One final quotation of personal interest. I am referred to a ‘g’ by my friends so imagine my delight at her own nickname reference:

“X. I love this new nickname. How it’s such a small letter but still fits all of me.”

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