For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, was created in 1974, and though some lines and images feel stuck in that disco-era reality, the emotional core of the work is timeless. They are reflections on the uniquely female experience, passion, jealousy, sexual freedom and the various roles, wife, mother, friend, lover.
Ntozake Shange wrote the pieces to be performed. She coined the term choreopoem to describe the work. In the work, several women’s lives intertwine lady in brown, lady in blue, lady in yellow, lady in green, lady in red, etc. Some poems are they’re own stories and others are them encouraging each other. The author uses phonetic spelling and interesting line breaks which provides a lively tempo.
The first poem, Dark Phases, explains the depths of the lady in brown’s despair. With succinct clarity.
“she’s been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn’t know the sound
of her own voice
her infinite beauty.”
Although the book title alludes to suicide, the author deals with issues ranging from date rape in her poem, Latent Rapists’, to spousal abuse in A Nite with Beau Willie Brown. The poem One is about the lady in red’s sexual prowess and it is a perfect poem.
“she wanted to be a memory
a wound to every man
arragant enough to want her
she waz the wrath
of women in windows
fingerin shades / ol lace curtains
camoflagain despair & stretch marks
so she glittered honestly”
Although the lady in red is in charge of her sexuality, her night still ends in tears and Shange is brave enough to show this duality of strength and despair in her nameless female characters.
Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff is a female empowerment piece. In this poem, lady in green realizes how close she was to losing the best parts of herself because of some bad experiences.
I want my own things/ how I lived them/
and give me my memories/ how I was when I was there/
you can’t have them or do nothing with them/
stealing my shit from me/ don’t make it yours/ makes it stolen/
somebody almost run off with all of my stuff/ and I was standing
there/ looking at myself/ the whole time
Reading single lines of a complex work like Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff doesn’t reflect the experience of reading the entire piece. The second stanza declares, “this is mine!” As the poem continues, the narrator comes to the discovery of who took her stuff. She thrashes out and proclaims no one else can ever have her stuff because no one else could ever handle it.
Video performances of the piece can be easily found and in 2010 Tyler Perry made a film version of the choreopoem simply called For Colored Girls. However it is approached, the piece is sure to shake and stimulate the reader and is the perfect end to National Poetry Month.