The Sealy Challenge
#𝗧𝗵𝗲𝗦𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘆𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗴𝗲 𝗗𝗮𝘆 6:
The Rose that grew From Concrete by Tupac Amaru Shakur ✒️
My favourite form of poetry is the one found in hip-hop and rap music. I grew up with spoken-word and Def Jam poetry. When my older brothers listened to Tupac’s music as a child, I was always enamoured by the stories he was able to weave in his songs. Dear Mama and I Ain’t Mad at Ya were standouts to me and I remember hearing this particular line in his song “Me and My Girlfriend” that really stuck out to me that I had to go look up the lyrics:
“Our childhood years recall the tears, heart laced with venom.”
I’m not sure why it stuck out to me as a kid but I remember going to my friends and reading it to them like: “Do you hear how amazing that is????” and they’d all look at me real weird. Then when I figured out his “girlfriend” was a metaphor for his gun… blew my mind even more.
This is why, to me, Tupac Shakur was always a poet first, rapper second. When I saw this book at the library of poems written between 1988 and 1991, I knew I had to pick it up.
The first thing I noticed immediately is Tupac’s use of the traditional form and sonnet. He uses aabb rhyme scheme and abab. He’s also big on the iambic pentameter. This gives his poetry a more “classic” form and rhythm that some contemporary poets shy away from.
This chapbook is by no means polished but instead very raw, with typos, handwritten and all. It gives us a glimpse into the man with “two sides” as he calls it. This paints a very different picture of him than what the media portrayed him as. He’s far from a very hard and very rough-and-tumble gangster. In this chapbook, he dedicates his poems to many different people including many women, and a lot of them speak frankly of the love he had for them. I was pretty surprised when I saw the poem called Jada, 4 Jada. I immediately knew that it was about Jada Pinkett Smith because he had a very close, very intimate relationship with her. Then I started thinking of Will Smith and that gif of him on Jada’s show Red Table Talk looking all sad about her entanglement…so yeah…LOL
I’m surprised that Tupac has poems in this book that are dedicated to the memory of older celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and even Vincent van Gogh. He mentions how they were both robbed of their lives and were exploited to some extent so you can tell that it’s something that he relates to very much.
He runs the gamut in terms of themes for his pieces from love to feelings of loneliness and feeling like his humanity is stripped away the more famous he gets, and that’s something I read in another book I read recently, My Art is Killing Me by Amber Dawn. The theme of the artist as consumable is one I believe I will run across many more times on this poetry reading journey.
I smiled all the way through his poem, until the last couplet:
“The day I met u I saw strength
and I knew from that point on
that you were pure woman 2 me
possessing a spirit that was strong
I want smiles to replace the sorrow
that you have encountered in the past
and since it was strength that attracted me 2 u
it will take strength to make it last
My negative side will attempt 2 change u
but please fight that with your all
it will be your strength that keeps us both standing
while others around us fall”
The reason why this poem went from happy to sad for me is that Tupac inadvertently puts all of the burdens on this strong Black woman to make it all work. *sigh* A Black women’s work is never done.
The last portion of the book deals with decidedly more political themes. He invokes the names of Mutulu and Mandela, explains that the justice system in America is blind to real crimes, yet he holds out some hope for the liberation of the Black man even if he feels trapped.
Too many of his poems rang true and are still relevant today in the worst ways: the killing of innocent civilians, Black men and women, by a greedy and capitalistic and corrupt system is at the forefront of many movements today. Tupac might feel like the loneliest man through his words, but he tells us that failure is only an opportunity to try again.
“I only follow my voice inside
if it guides me wrong and I do not win
I’ll learn from mistakes and try 2 achieve again.”
I love that message and I have to remind myself of it every day.
𝗠𝘆 𝗳𝗮𝘃𝗼𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘀/𝗽𝗮𝗿𝘁𝘀/𝗽𝗼𝗲𝗺𝘀:
The Eternal Lament
“From my mind 2 the depths of my soul
I yearn 2 achieve all of my goals
And all of my free time will be spent
on the I’s I miss I will lament
I’m not a perfectionist
But I still seek perfection
I am not a great romantic
But yet a yearn and 4 affection
Eternally my mind will produce
ways 2 put my talents 2 use
and when I’m done no matter where I’ve been
I’ll yearn 2 do it all again”
Things that make hearts break
and people who dream with their eyes open
and souls who have given up hoping
The other thing that breaks hearts
R fairy tales that never come true
And selfish people who lie 2 me
selfish people just like u”
Tomorrow’s book will be je vous entends rêver (I hear you dream) by Gilles Vigneault