This week we asked June’s Poet in Residence, Cynthia Manick, how spoken word poetry factors into her work and to poetry in general. Here she shares her thoughts and a reading of her piece, “Dear Superman,” originally published at The Cortland Review. We follow this up with another of Cynthia’s powerful poems. —Cami Griep


I believe originally poetry was an auditory experience. People told stories and performed them in front of others. The ability to write was limited to a certain class, but emotion translates over every spectrum. A person may not be able to read, but they can hear a poem and be exhilarated or sad. Hearing the tones, the way a voice emphasizes certain words over the other, and where the poet decides to pause in his or her reading, directs the listener to specific feelings. It’s similar to music. Reading the lyrics give you one sense, but hearing it sung opens up another.

Listen to Cynthia read Dear Superman (with text).


Dear Black Dress

don’t speak to me
don’t speak to me about
the hot haze
that keeps you
up past midnight

the groove held tight
in your double-stitched
inseam     it conjures men
like blooming  jasmine
its scent swells
the mouth

the triangle cinch two quarters down
pit stop
to silhouette
shines a light on legs   a well-lit
street to a body
of currents

i’m not immune to your sorcery
the sweet feed
of darkness
the way damp air travels
from cotton to skin
from skin to mind

you wanna dance—
with all the shadows
that bones make
swallow octaves
cut through   corseted lungs

i try to calm you
sedate you with pink   cardigans
beige brown shawls
but it’s like covering some hump
mama deity
on the prowl
no marrow is safe

“Dear Black Dress” originally appeared in Sou’wester.

Cynthia Manick is the author of Blue Hallelujahs, forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. A Pushcart Prize nominated poet with a MFA in Creative Writing from the New School, she has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Hedgebrook, Poets House, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in African American Review, Bone Bouquet, Callaloo, DMQ Review, Kweli Journal, Muzzle Magazine, Sou’wester, Pedestal Magazine, Passages North, Tidal Basin, and elsewhere. She currently curates Soul Sister Revue and resides in Brooklyn, New York.