According to John Leland’s New York Times article, Ntozake Shange, author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf, wrote one poem everyday until a neurological disease took over her hands and feet. She suffered two strokes before being diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a disease that causes involuntary shaking and loss of reflexes.
Leland describes her struggle expressing her language due to her inability to write or type, without pain. Leland quotes Shange who said “It sort of feels empty, not like I’m swollen with words. I feel like there’s an astringent being applied to my body so that everything is getting very tight and I can’t release it right this minute.”
If you’ve seen “For Colored Girls,” you know Shange is well acquainted with hardship. In her works, she explores what it means to be a black woman, relationships among black women and men, racism, slavery and so on. She articulates her language in a way that forces the reader to pay attention and then linger a while after to delve in the true meaning of her words.
Although she is unable to write, she has played with voice recognition software. She complains that spell check takes away from her artistic slang and writing style. The software diminishes the essence of her art by destroying her black vernacular, which has a heavy influence on African American poetry still today.
“I found God in myself
and I loved her
I loved her fiercely.”
Shange is like any of us. She sees issues, in her own life and surrounding. She is receptive to her life as a black woman, racism, and now, her fight with her health. She is different from some of us, because she captures and controls these issues through her writing.
Her words are her way of understanding what life is supposed to mean, and although she may not be able to write, her mind is constantly working to arrange her hurt and express it in a way that can help others. And through her connection with people, she creates art.
There are words caged inside her. There are words caged in all of us. We all have our problems. What would you say is holding you back? Comment below.