African / American / Book Reviews / poetry / The Latest

“Witch Doctor Poet”: The body, beauty, and poetry with Bola Juju


Book cover of WitchDoctorPoet by Bola Juju. Mosaic abstract blue bean-shape on cream background.

Bola Juju is an American author and this is her first collection of poems. Bound2Books is no stranger to poetry. I love to read poetry books, I love to talk about poetry, and I feel like it is extremely important to celebrate and keep poetry alive and in conversation in the contemporary world.

Juju’s collection of poetry explores and highlights the beauty of our bodies, her poems celebrate femininity, love and loss, and the relationship we have with our bodies and the world around us. Many of the poems feel like they are searching for something more than what is on the paper. There is a longing in Juju’s words that speak to something bigger than us – something spiritual.

One of my favourite poems “My Throat Holds A Corridor of Spirits” speaks to the frustration many women feel with speaking out and being loud in the world. Juju seems to touch on the idea many marginalised groups can feel when they feel that they need to shrink before society in order to fit in.

The world loves me best quiet

they laugh

spilling rum out of the corners of their mouths

Honey, that doesn’t sound like love at all!

There is a power in these words that I really appreciated hearing. We lie to ourselves so much and tell ourselves that the cages we are in are actually a home, but deep down we know what they really are – cold hard prison bars.

There is a power to Juju’s poems that ignites something in me when I read them. It feels like a chorus of women, from past, present, and future speaking to me, encouraging me, and asking me to hold myself accountable.

All that your ancestors had to

go through for you to be here

and you doubt yourself?

How dare you

The other aspect of Juju’s writing that I really enjoyed was her way of connecting domestic work and work on the soul – cleaning dishes; cleaning souls; cleaning love; cleaning partners. Is it purification or decemation? And are they even different?

I look forward to seeing more of what Juju will write. What poetry are loving and reading? As always, share the reading love.

Note: this poetry collection was accessed through Netgalley for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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