Coker’s impressive debut pulses with rhythms and assertiveness as it talks defiance against accepted order. The uplifting and inspiring “What Were You Told” urges all females, from a girl child to a mature woman, to believe in their own abilities while examining the unfair expectations and practices when it comes to the fairer sex. In “How Do You Sleep,” Coker delves into gender inequality, class and race disparity, faith and religion and asks relevant questions, such as, “How do you sleep when you lie?/ say man is wood,/ a woman is wool./ say, your wife is your most expensive item,/ an object for exhibition./ say, she’s a tool/ & you’re a worker.” whereas the title poem “Letter to Lilly” celebrates female beauty, compassion, and strength: “Girl, you are MELODY./ You make music soothing./ You are the dream, the dreamland./ Never forget. Never.” Coker infuses the collection with emotion, hard truths, old practices, rightful anger, and descriptions of the discriminations that exist for women, including girl child, particularly in Africa. The poems contemplate gender inequality (“Invention:” “Draw a woman, label her less than you would a man,” “A Pint of Madness:” Say, a woman has no grit,/ she cannot connect the dots,” and “The Birth of Silence:” “again the flat screen flutter/ at Dad’s voice. Again, freckles/ blanket Mum’s skin like desperate dews/ blotting the sky.”) rampant, especially in Black nations, and advise that every girl should consider herself beyond the concerns of the girl-child. Humming with life, the poems in the collection create a collage of universal female experiences while interweaving themes of identity, race, and belief. There is an honesty to Coker’s writing as she delves into gender inequalities, and her sharp rendering of unfair gender practices is wholly appealing. Rhythmic and eloquent, this arresting collection is a must-read for every female.
Letter to Lilly
By Funmi Coker
The Roaring Lion Newcastle LTD
Pub date April 10, 2021
Price $9.49 (USD) Paperback, $3.00 Kindle edition