After reading around thirty pages from salt, I googled Nayyirah Waheed. I was curious to know how could someone fit decades of history in less than five lines. I was keen to find the poet who compelled me to bookmark half the book. Who is Nayyirah Waheed? I questioned and google apologized as if I had asked something out of the syllabus. All I could gather was that Nayyirah is a low-key poet who would only speak through her poems and that she has authored two books that are 'salt' and 'Nejma'. And if she speaks in the language of poems, then 'Salt' must be her mother tongue.
'Salt' is a collection of poems with around 250 pages that can answer the questions you could never ask. It captures the essence of racism, toxic masculinity, and diasporic life among other things. She's also picked up colors of self-love and sisterhood while knitting this work of art. When I picked up 'Salt' I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, I had hardly read anything from Nayyirah Waheed before. I dived in the book head-first with no expectations but to taste the saltwater [pun intended].
The book starts off with a writing style that I am familiar with. If you've read Rupi Kaur before you'd find yourself fairly comfortable with the writing style. Rupi Kaur once mentioned that she took inspiration from Nayyirah Waheed and Warsan Shire, the author of 'Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth'. Hence the poems are short but impactful.
What I liked
salt was a journey to some of the most uncomfortable places of my thoughts. Thoughts that I can only keep to myself. This is a book that raised questions and challenged my perspective. But it didn't leave me clueless. By the end of the book, I was gifted with poems that answered my curiosity. While the book is compiled of poems with just 3-5 lines, it surprised me. There were poems that I read twice and even some thrice to believe in its existence.
“I will tell you, my daughter of your worth, not your beauty every day. (your beauty is a given. every being is born beautiful). knowing your worth can save your life. raising you on beauty alone you will be starved. you will be raw. you will be weak. an easy stomach. always in need of someone telling you how beautiful you are. – emotional nutrition” ―Nayyirah Waheed
Nayyirah's choice of words is simple and the metaphors are repetitive. It was almost as if she wasn't writing poems but speaking to the reader. The book is an easy read that does not distract you with heavy words. It has a point to make, and it wants to be remembered. 'salt' holds your hand while it walks you through the dark era of history and shows you how it changed the future. It holds your hands through accepting womanhood and through the rage of oppression.
I particularly found myself captivated by the range of topics the book covered. While Nayyirah painted the coal-black sky, she did not forget to add flickering stars. The stars that shone of self-love and courage in a world that is trying to suppress our voices. She brings forward the light and the hope to fight back and not be reduced by the ones who hold power.
What didn't work for me
While the book is power-packed with thought-provoking and soul-stirring poems, some of them did not seem to fit. There were poems that were a handful of metaphors tied together with no purpose or explanation. While I am all in for metaphors and Imagery, I could not connect with some of them. I found it hard to relate with a few and failed to understand the point of others.
Here are some of my favorites from the collection
“you broke the ocean in half to be here. only to meet nothing that wants you. – immigrant”
“cruel mothers are still mothers. they make us wars. they make us revolution. they teach us the truth. early. mothers are humans. who sometimes give birth to their pain. instead of children. – hate”
“if someone does not want me it is not the end of the world. but if I do not want me. the world is nothing but endings.”
“my whole life i have ate my tongue. ate my tongue. ate my tongue. i am so full of my tongue you would think speaking is easy. but it is not. – for we who keep our lives in our mouths”
I would recommend this book to anyone who would like a quick-read but would also like to have a mind-bending experience. 'salt' is more than just a literary work, It's a message and a powerful one. It's the salt that we all might need to taste the history better, to know what brings us here. To know what makes us and what tried but could never break us.
Ratings - 4/5