It was a refreshing and amazing experience to read ‘I Am Soul’ by Yecheilyah Ysrayl who in my opinion is a wonderful poet of everything ‘Soul’.
I am from Mumbai, India.
In the eyes of the global world, I’m colored or a woman of color.
I have read many books and articles about the way a woman of color is treated in society, especially in Indian society. I have studied History and Sociology throughout my college career which gave me a lot of material to study about the situation of colored people in Indian society. But to be frank, I’m not that well equipped to talk or speak about Black American History or the Black American contemporary views on life, culture, society, history, politics, education, et al., because I was always too wrapped up with the Indian scenario. So, pardon me if I make a few mistakes here in my book review. I’m not going to pretend that I am a professional at Black American culture, heritage and literature. I’m just saying that I loved this book, and as a woman of color, it touched my being and I want to talk about it here via a blog post.
I have started reading Black American literature in general after I turned 28 years of age in 2017, because of the poems and writings of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, James Baldwin and Dorothy West. Yes, you’d wonder where I was and what I was doing with my life, but the fact is that, all said and done, I have just begun to realize the richness and depth of the Black-American experience. ‘I Am Soul’ by Yecheilyah Ysrayl is one book among many that are educating women of color like me from far off countries like India, especially recluses like me, and I’m glad I am being educated.
‘I Am Soul’ to me is a book about being a part of a history that none can forget, but that slowly is changing the way we look at this race of people past, present and to a bright future, God willing. Some of my favorite poems in this series were: ‘Her Skin’, ‘Sugar-Coated and Springtime’, ‘Arrogance’, ‘The Right Poem’, ‘Her Song’, ‘I’ll Carry It With Me’, ‘Truth’, ‘Vessel’, ‘I Was Not There’, ‘If My Books Shall Die’, ‘Brown Skin’, ‘Hope Like Water’, ‘The Unknown Woman’, ‘Ink Pen’, ‘Choose Your Words’ and ‘Why I Read’. Liked the sound of all these titles? Then what are you waiting for? Go and get a copy of ‘I Am Soul’ by Yecheilyah Ysrayl today.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m still learning about Black-American culture, so some of the potent words, events, catch phrases et al., may have escaped me, so have a bit of patience with me – after all, I am an insaneowl at the end of the day, or night!
Yecheilyah Ysrayl’s poems spoke to my soul as a colored woman, as a woman who loves to write and a woman who is proud of her heritage. My favorite poem in this splendid book is definitely ‘Choose Your Words’. I was a child who grew up being ignored at school. For twelve whole years, my school years, I was quiet as the grave, I hardly spoke and was more than anything else not spoken to. I was basically left to my own devices. But, when teachers and my fellow peers (who made me shed a lot of tears) used to speak to me, their words were toxic, poisonous and hurtful to say the least. It was then that I understood that indeed, words can make or break you. This fact is brought out very well in the poem ‘Choose Your Words’ by Yecheilyah Ysrayl who I think is going to create history with her writings one of these days.
Another poem which I liked was ‘Ink Pen’ which speaks about the writer’s love for her ink pen or ball point pen and writing in long hand. I type my manuscripts, blog posts, etc., but I keep diaries and I love to write in them by long hand with my favorite Natraj ball point pens. I love the smell of the ink on paper and the way my thoughts flow easily as I write my little pieces in my diaries. My second favorite writer Ruskin Bond loves to write only in long hand and I used to follow his example until I was 29 years old. Then I started typing my manuscripts like regular authors to save time. Reading ‘Ink Pen’ reminded me of my days writing away in my little writing nooks in a cheap ruled schoolbook and a ball point pen. I loved this poem; I loved its rhythm and the sincerity of the writer who wrote it. The writer’s soul of Yecheilyah Ysrayl shines through and I’m so happy that I got a chance to read this poem.
‘Silent Heart Breaks’ was a poem in this book which was short, but powerful. I felt it spoke to me, especially the following lines:
“No one will look up,
Because pain has no sound…. except to pen a tear…”
I loved this line. It reminded me of a schoolboy I was in love with, unrequited and one sided of course. The day he broke my heart was terrible. It was terrible to realize that someone meant so much to you, but to him, you didn’t even exist – I wasn’t even there! I penned my tears in ink in crowded cafes, libraries and book nooks until I started renting an office-cum-writing hut of my own. No one knows who he is. Neither does he. Isn’t it funny; I’ve loved him for seventeen years – a great part of my life,
‘Kisē nē mainū ajihā zakhama dē ditā hai, jō ki ka’ī sālāṁ taka mērē pasalī vica tasīhē dēṇagē atē saṛana karanagē’
‘ਕਿਸੇ ਨੇ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਅਜਿਹਾ ਜ਼ਖਮ ਦੇ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਹੈ, ਜੋ ਕਿ ਕਈ ਸਾਲਾਂ ਤਕ ਮੇਰੇ ਪੱਸਲੀ ਵਿੱਚ ਤਸੀਹੇ ਦੇਣਗੇ ਅਤੇ ਸੜਨ ਕਰਨਗੇ’
There are many such love poems in ‘I Am Soul’ that have rendered me hopelessly recollecting my love for an empty dream. In this instance, the soul of a Black American and an Indian urban woman was made one – in memory of old love robbing us as we pass on by.
‘Brown Skin’ was my favorite Black American soul poem which taught me the very essence of the spirit of Black America. It also made me smile. I keep coming back to it whenever I’m reading books on my Kindle. When I read it, I see this beautiful race of people who have shaped history, contemporary society and has given us a roadmap for the future, hopefully a good one, for Black America has suffered enough just like the Dalits and other minority communities in my country, India, have suffered. Let us be brown and be proud that we are brown. Let us hold each other’s hands and lift off, rather than turn away when the tide of time calls for a flood of judgement which without mercy, we will find difficult to swim in.
Lastly, I would like to recommend this lovely and enriching book to everyone, irrespective of race, community, religion, caste and gender. I hope to review more books by Yecheilyah Ysrayl soon and hopefully, when I do so, I will be more capable of giving a more enlightened review as I will be reading more books about Black American history and literature in the future.
This is not a quick read so before you start this book, make sure you’ve got a comfy chair, a mug of your favorite brew of coffee and a scented candle lit by your side, because these poems are meant to be taken seriously. I see a bright future for Yecheilyah Ysrayl in the writing industry and wish her all the best in her future endeavors. Do read these beautiful poems with discernment and an open heart. Read it to be empowered.
Happy reading to all!
Copyright ©2019 Fiza Pathan